Non-medullary thyroid cancer

They originate in the follicular cells of the thyroid gland and include papillary and follicular carcinoma. They account for 95% of all thyroid cancers with a worldwide incidence of 4-6%. They are generally asymptomatic, with the best prognosis and survival, however, advanced or aggressive forms may present a greater degree of dissemination and more severe symptoms.

For unknown reasons they occur three times more frequently in women, and although they can occur at any age, the risk in women is higher at lower ages (40-60 years) compared to men (60-79 years).

Radiation exposure is a proven risk factor including radiation sources such as medical treatments, as well as exposure to nuclear weapons or power plant accidents, depending directly on the amount and inversely on age. It is unclear how much imaging studies (X-rays and CT scans) might increase the risk of thyroid or other cancers since the doses are much lower.

People who are overweight or obese have an increased risk of thyroid cancer as body mass index increases.

Follicular thyroid cancers are more common in areas where the diet is low in iodine. However, a diet high in iodine may increase the risk of papillary thyroid cancer.

White or Asian people are more likely to develop thyroid cancer, but the disease can affect a person of any race or ethnicity.


Most thyroid cancers do not cause symptoms and therefore usually go unnoticed. However, it is possible to present the following manifestations:

  • In case the nodules are large in size, they may be visible or palpable. Fortunately only 1 in 20 turns out to be malignant.
  • If the size is larger they can cause:
    • Swelling in the neck, difficulty swallowing or breathing, pain in the front of the neck sometimes reaching the ears.
    • Hoarseness, persistent voice changes, constant cough not due to a cold.

It is important to consider that thyroid nodules are common and usually benign, and that many of these symptoms can also be caused by non-cancerous conditions or even by other cancers located in the same area.


Most people with thyroid cancer have no known risk factors, so it is difficult to prevent this disease. Therefore, it is important to try to avoid associated risk factors.

  • Avoid exposure to radiation, especially in childhood, including imaging studies (x-rays and CT scans) since it is not known how much they may increase the risk of thyroid cancer.Avoid radiation exposure, especially in childhood, including imaging studies (x-rays and CT scans), since it is not known how much they may increase the risk of thyroid cancer (or other cancers), unless absolutely necessary, in which case the lowest possible radiation dose should be used.
  • Maintain a healthy and balanced diet, including iodine intake, and a healthy and active lifestyle with regular physical exercise to prevent overweight and obesity.

Number of observed variants

13.5 million variants

Number of risk loci analyzed in the study

11 loci

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