Thyroid Cancer Risk Factors
Age, gender, and exposure to radiation can affect the risk of thyroid cancer.
Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will not get cancer. Talk with your doctor if you think you may be at risk. Risk factors for thyroid cancer include the following:
- Being between 25 and 65 years old.
- Being female.
- Being exposed to radiation to the head and neck as a child or being exposed to radiation from an atomic bomb. The cancer may occur as soon as 5 years after exposure.
- Having a history of goiter (enlarged thyroid).
- Having a family history of thyroid disease or thyroid cancer.
- Having certain genetic conditions such as familial medullary thyroid cancer (FMTC), multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2A syndrome, and multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2B syndrome.
- Being Asian.
Medullary thyroid cancer is sometimes caused by a change in a gene that is passed from parent to child.
The genes in cells carry hereditary information from parent to child. A certain change in a gene that is passed from parent to child (inherited) may cause medullary thyroid cancer. A test has been developed that can find the changed gene before medullary thyroid cancer appears. The patient is tested first to see if he or she has the changed gene. If the patient has it, other family members may also be tested. Family members, including young children, who have the changed gene can decrease the chance of developing medullary thyroid cancer by having a thyroidectomy (surgery to remove the thyroid).
Signs of thyroid cancer include a swelling or lump in the neck.
Thyroid cancer may not cause early signs or symptoms. It is sometimes found during a routine physical exam. Signs or symptoms may occur as the tumor gets bigger. Other conditions may cause the same signs or symptoms. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following:
- A lump in the neck.
- Trouble breathing.
- Trouble swallowing.
Adapted from the National Cancer Institute’s Physician Data Query (PDQ(r)) Cancer Information Summaries (http://www.cancer.gov/
For more information:
Go to the Thyroid cancer health topic.