What age is Hashimotos diagnosed?
What age is Hashimotos diagnosed?
ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about the factors that increase the chance of developing thyroid cancer. Use the menu to see other pages.
A risk factor is anything that increases a person’s chance of developing cancer. Although risk factors often influence the development of cancer, most do not directly cause cancer. Some people with several risk factors never develop cancer, while others with no known risk factors do. Knowing your risk factors and talking about them with your doctor may help you make more informed lifestyle and health care choices.
The following factors may raise a person’s risk of developing thyroid cancer:
Gender. Women are diagnosed with 3 of every 4 thyroid cancers.
Age. Thyroid cancer can occur at any age, but about two-thirds of all cases are found in people between the ages of 20 and 55. Anaplastic thyroid cancer is usually diagnosed after age 60. Older infants (10 months and older) and adolescents can develop medullary thyroid cancer (MTC), especially if they carry the RET proto-oncogene mutation (see below).
Genetics. Some types of thyroid cancer are associated with genetics. Below are some key facts about this disease, genes, and family history. If you are interested in learning more about your personal genetic risk, read this website’s article about getting genetic testing.
- An abnormal RET oncogene, which can be passed from parent to child, may cause MTC. An abnormality may also be called an alteration or mutation. Not everyone with an altered RET oncogene will develop cancer. Blood tests and genetic tests can detect the gene. Once the altered RET oncogene is identified, a doctor may recommend surgery to remove the thyroid gland before cancer develops. People with MTC are encouraged to have genetic testing to determine if a mutation of the RET proto-oncogene is present. If so, genetic testing of parents, siblings, and children will be recommended.
- A family history of MTC increases a person’s risk.
- People with MEN2 syndrome are also at risk for developing other types of cancers.
- A family history of precancerous polyps in the colon, also called the large intestines, increases the risk of developing papillary thyroid cancer.
Radiation exposure. Exposure to moderate levels of radiation to the head and neck may increase the risk of papillary and follicular thyroid cancers. Such sources of exposure include:
- Low-dose to moderate-dose x-ray treatments used before 1950 to treat children with acne, tonsillitis, and other head and neck problems.
- Radiation therapy for Hodgkin lymphoma or other forms of lymphoma in the head and neck.
- Exposure to radioactive iodine, also called I-131 or RAI, especially in childhood.
- Exposure to ionizing radiation, including radioactive fallout from atomic weapons testing during the 1950s and 1960s and nuclear power plant fallout. Examples include the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident and the 2011 earthquake that damaged nuclear power plants in Fukushima, Japan. Another source is environmental release of I-131 from atomic weapon production plants.
Diet low in iodine. Iodine is needed for normal thyroid function. In the United States, iodine is added to salt to help prevent thyroid problems.
Race. White people and Asian people are more likely to develop thyroid cancer, but this disease can affect a person of any race or ethnicity.
Breast cancer. A recent study showed that breast cancer survivors may have a higher risk of thyroid cancer, particularly in the first 5 years after diagnosis and for those diagnosed with breast cancer at a younger age. This finding continues to be examined by researchers.
The next section in this guide is Symptoms and Signs. It explains what changes or medical problems thyroid cancer can cause. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.
Risks and causes of thyroid cancer
A person’s risk of developing thyroid cancer depends on many factors, including age, some non cancerous thyroid conditions and a family history of thyroid cancer.
We don’t know what causes most thyroid cancers. But there are some factors that might increase your risk of developing it.
Having any of these risk factors doesn’t mean that you will definitely develop thyroid cancer.
Age and gender
Thyroid cancer is more common in women than in men, and more so during their reproductive years. The highest number of women diagnosed with thyroid cancer are between the ages of 44 and 49 years. Men are more likely to develop thyroid cancer at an older age. For example between the ages of 80 to 84 years.
The reasons for this are still unclear. Researchers are looking at the relationship between thyroid cancer and:
- the use of oral contraceptives
- hormone replacement therapy
- the age periods start
- the age of menopause
Being very overweight (obese)
The risk of thyroid cancer is higher in people who are overweight or obese (have a higher weight than is normal for their height).
- How obesity causes cancer
Non cancerous (benign) thyroid disease
Some non cancerous (benign) conditions of the thyroid increase your risk of thyroid cancer. These include:
- an enlarged thyroid (goitre)
- a condition where the immune system attacks the thyroid gland (Hashimoto’s disease)
- nodules (adenomas)
It’s important to remember that although having a lump or nodule increases the risk, thyroid cancer is rare. Thyroid lumps are common. But only about 5 out of 100 thyroid lumps (5%) are cancer.
You have a higher risk of thyroid cancer if a close family member has thyroid cancer. This risk is higher than that of the general population if you have one or more first degree relatives. A first degree relative is a parent, brother, sister, son or daughter. But it’s worth remembering that this risk is still very small because thyroid cancer is rare.
Inherited faulty genes
Some people have an increased risk of developing thyroid cancer because of an inherited change (fault) in a gene .
For example, some people have changes in the RET gene that cause syndromes called MEN2A and MEN2B. MEN stands for multiple endocrine neoplasia. People with these syndromes have an increased risk of medullary thyroid cancer.
MEN2A and MEN2B are rare conditions. Most people found to have MEN are offered surgery to remove their thyroid gland.
About 25 in every 100 people (25%) who develop medullary thyroid cancer have an inherited faulty gene associated with MEN.
Speak to your GP if you are concerned about your family history of thyroid cancer.
- Read more about screening for thyroid cancer
The thyroid gland is sensitive to radiation. People who have a lot of radiation may develop nodules or lumps on their thyroid some years later. A lump or nodule on your thyroid doesn’t always mean it is a cancer. But you should always check with your doctor if you find a lump.
Thyroid cancer is more common in people treated with radiotherapy when they were a child. The cancer might develop some years later.
Research has shown that the risk of thyroid cancer is not increased in people routinely exposed to radiation through their work.
Thyroid cancer may be more common in survivors of atomic explosions or accidents. After the Chernobyl nuclear reactor accident, cases of thyroid cancer in the Ukraine rose in people exposed to radiation, particularly as children or adolescents.
People who have low levels of iodine in their body might have a higher risk of thyroid cancer after exposure to radiation than people with normal iodine levels.
Producing too many hormones
Acromegaly is a rare condition where the body over produces growth hormone. Studies suggest that this may increase the risk of thyroid cancer.
Systemic lupus erythematosus
Systemic lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune condition. Studies suggest that the risk of thyroid cancer is about 2 times higher in people with systemic lupus erythematosus than the general population.
Having had cancer before
Some studies suggest that people treated as adults for certain cancers have an increased risk of thyroid cancer. These include:
- non-Hodgkin lymphoma
- breast cancer
- cancer of the food pipe (oesophageal cancer)
- testicular cancer
It is not known if this is due to treatment for these cancers, common risk factors or inherited genetic changes. In the case of oesophageal cancer, it may be because routine checks after treatment pick up the thyroid cancers.
Reducing your risk and other possible causes
You might have heard of other possible causes of cancer. Stories about potential causes are often in the media and it isn’t always clear which ideas are supported by evidence.
We haven’t included them here, either because there is no evidence about them or it is less clear.
- Read more about possible causes of cancer
- A pooled analysis of thyroid cancer incidence following radiotherapy for childhood cancer
LHS Veiga and others
Radiation Research 2012. 178(4):365-76
- Cancer. Principles and practice of oncology(11th edition)
VT De Vita, S Hellman and SA Rosenberg
Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins, 2018
- The fraction of cancer attributable to known risk factors in England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the UK overall in 2015
KF Brown and others
British Journal of Cancer, 2018. 118(8), Pages 1130-1141
- Family History of Cancer and Risk of Sporadic Differentiated Thyroid Carcinoma L Xu and others Cancer, 2012. 1; 118(5)
- Papillary thyroid cancer: Clinical features and prognosis R Tuttle and others UpToDate website Accessed February 2021
- The information on this page is based on literature searches and specialist checking. We used many references and there are too many to list here. Please contact email@example.com with details of the particular issue you are interested in if you need additional references for this information.