Thyroid cancer on the rise
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.