The Increase in Thyroid Cancer

While the incidence of many cancers is declining, thyroid cancer is one that is steadily soaring, especially in women. It’s got everyone wondering why this hormonal powerhouse is taking such a hit.

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There is a worrisome trend emerging that puts the lives of women at great risk, and you might be staring at it each time you look in the mirror. The number of cases of thyroid cancer has more then doubled since the 1970s and that has a lot of people wondering why. Thyroid cancer is one of those stealth cancers that can grow under the radar, sometimes for decades. For this reason, catching it early is critical.

It's a wonder that this tiny gland with so much responsibility would fail to announce it is harboring a potential deadly cancer. The thyroid gland is the body's engine driver; it manufactures the thyroid hormone that is used to fuel metabolism and oversees the activities of other critical hormones produced elsewhere. When the amount of thyroid hormone is unbalanced – too much hormone causes hyperthyroidism, too little, hypothyroidism – it can wreak havoc in the body.

The thyroid gland is located just under the skin, splayed like a butterfly across the windpipe, right below the Adam's apple. About 5% of women and 1% of men with adequate dietary iodine (an essential element for thyroid health) have small bumps of tissue in and about the gland called thyroid nodules. For the most part, thyroid nodules never cause any trouble; they are just benign irregularities. In fact, most people will develop a thyroid nodule by the time they are 60 years old.

Some nodules however, can be cancerous although they are not generally life threatening. A few studies have shown that cancerous nodules are a common finding when autopsies are performed on people who died from other causes. This suggests that thyroid cancer may be present in many more people, but it never becomes lethal. But not all cancerous nodules have that laid-back temperament.

And that is why this increase in diagnosis is troubling.