Thy­roid can­cer on the rise

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By WANG HONGYI in Shang­hai wanghongyi@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

The in­ci­dence rate of thy­roid can­cer in Shang­hai has tripled over the past two decades, with mid­dle-aged women the worst hit, doc­tors said.

Ac­cord­ing to the Shang­hai Cen­ter for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion, thy­roid can­cer is cur­rently one of the ma­lig­nan­cies whose in­ci­dence are rapidly on the rise in the city.

Thy­roid can­cer has climbed to the fourth most com­mon form of can­cer among women in Shang­hai. The num­ber of fe­male pa­tients is three to four times that of male pa­tients.

Wang Zhuoy­ing, a head and neck sur­geon at Fu­dan Uni­ver­sity Shang­hai Can­cer Cen­ter, said the in­crease has a close con­nec­tion to im­proved di­ag­nos­tic meth­ods, such as the wider use of ul­tra­sound tech­nol­ogy, which can help de­tect mi­nor thy­roid tu­mors that evaded de­tec­tion in the past.

“Some be­lieve that the higher in­ci­dence of thy­roid can­cer among women has a cer­tain re­la­tion to women’s es­tro­gen lev­els and emo­tional stress, but cur­rently there is still not suf­fi­cient sci­en­tific ev­i­dence to sup­port this,” Wang said, adding that thy­roid can­cer is the joint out­come of var­i­ous fac­tors, in­clud­ing ge­net­ics, en­vi­ron­men­tal ex­po­sure and daily diet.

Wang said peo­ple need to be aware of ex­po­sure to ra­dioac­tive rays and ge­netic in­di­ca­tors.

“Ra­dioac­tive rays have in­deed had a car­cino­genic ef­fect,” he said. “If a per­son re­ceived ra­di­a­tion treat­ment for some dis­eases, es­pe­cially at younger ages, the risk of suf­fer­ing from thy­roid can­cer dur­ing adult­hood will be sig­nif­i­cantly in­creased.”

“Be­sides that, thy­roid can­cer has a ten­dency to be ge­net­i­cally in­her­ited. Peo­ple need to at­tach im­por­tance to regular thy­roid tests, if some of their lin­eal rel­a­tives are thy­roid can­cer pa­tients,” he added.

Ex­perts also said there is not suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence to prove the di­rect link­age be­tween the in­take of iodized salt and thy­roid can­cer, as some have spec­u­lated. China started us­ing iodized salt na­tion­wide in the 1990s as a mea­sure to pre­vent io­dine de­fi­ciency.

Wang said pa­tients have no rea­son to panic if they are di­ag­nosed with thy­roid dis­ease, de­spite the fast rise in thy­roid can­cer cases. Most thy­roid dis­eases are be­nign and do not re­quire med­i­cal in­ter­ven­tion.

“A thy­roid nod­ule is one of most com­mon thy­roid dis­eases, which can be de­tected in roughly 30 to 60 per­cent of the nor­mal pop­u­la­tion with an ul­tra­sonic ex­am­i­na­tion,” Wang said. “Med­i­cal treat­ment is not re­quired if such a nod­ule grows slowly. An ul­tra­sonic exam ev­ery one to two years to mon­i­tor its pace of growth will do the job.

“Surgery and drug ther­apy are nec­es­sary only when the nod­ules in­crease more rapidly and pro­duce com­pres­sion symptoms or af­fect thy­roid func­tions.”

The num­ber of thy­roid can­cer cases con­tin­ues to in­crease ev­ery year glob­ally, China in­cluded.

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