About Thyroid Cancer

Usually, we don’t know the specific cause of an individual patient’s thyroid cancer. Thyroid cancer is more likely to occur in people who have undergone radiation therapy of the head, neck, or chest during childhood. Radiation was commonly used before 1960 to shrink enlarged tonsils or adenoids, to treat various skin problems (such as acne), and to reduce an enlarged thymus gland (an organ inside the chest) in infants. Radiation exposure following the Chernobyl nuclear power plant reactor tragedy resulted in more than 5,000  cases of thyroid cancer in children exposed to the fallout in April 1986.

Radiation that is used in diagnostic x-rays (for example, x-rays used by dentists or CT scans of the neck/chest) is probably not connected with thyroid cancer. However radiation treatments to the head and neck that is still being used as therapy for malignancies in childhood and early adult life can be associated with an increased risk of development of thyroid cancer many years later. Thyroid cancer is also more likely to occur if you have a family member who has had thyroid cancer. However, thyroid cancer can occur in anyone.