Thyroid Cancer Prevention & Detection

  • Yujie Zhao, MD, PhD, discusses thyroid cancer prevention options with a patient.

Risk Factors

We don’t know what causes most cases of thyroid cancer, but research shows that some factors may put you at higher-than-average risk of developing the disease.

  • Not Enough Iodine in Your Diet: Your body needs iodine to produce thyroid hormones. The main food sources of iodine are iodized salt (salt with iodine added) and seafood.
  • Radiation Exposure: Radiation—either given as a medical treatment during childhood or from fallout caused by nuclear weapons or nuclear plant accidents—has been shown to cause thyroid cancer. 
  • Age: Although people of all ages can get thyroid cancer, most women who get it are middle-aged (40s or 50s), while most men are older (60s or 70s).
  • Gender: We don’t know why, but women are three times more likely than men to develop thyroid cancer. 
  • Family History: In some cases, thyroid cancer is caused by an inherited gene mutation. If genetic testing reveals that you have a gene mutation linked to thyroid cancer, removing the thyroid gland can help prevent thyroid cancer from developing. 

Screening

Because most people who develop thyroid cancer do not have the associated risk factors, there is no way of knowing who should be screened for the disease. However, if several people in your family have had thyroid cancer, you may want to find out whether you have an inherited genetic risk and learn about the prevention options that are available to you. 

For more information, call Roswell Park’s Cancer Information Program at 1-877-ASK-RPCI (1-877-275-7724). An information specialist will complete a brief genetics questionnaire with you over the phone, and we will contact you about an appointment. 

Clinical Genetics Counseling

Are thyroid cancer or parathyroid tumors hiding in your family tree? 

Some people have a higher-than-normal risk for thyroid cancer or parathyroid tumors, because they have inherited a mutation, or abnormality, in a specific gene. In some cases, if it’s appropriate, people with a gene mutation may decide to undergo prophylactic (risk-reducing) surgery or have their doctor keep an eye on the situation so any problems can be caught early. 

If you have a family history of thyroid cancer or parathyroid tumors, the Roswell Park Clinical Genetics Service can help you understand the science behind genetics counseling so you can make an informed decision about whether you and/or your children should undergo testing for any inherited gene mutations that could affect your cancer risk. 

For more information, or to make an appointment with the Clinical Genetics Service, call 1-877-ASK-RPCI (1-877-275-7724).