Autoimmune thyroid disease associated with environmental thyroidal irradiation

Thyroid. 2003 May;13(5):453-64. doi: 10.1089/105072503322021115.


Reports of increased rates of thyroid disease in populations exposed to radiation as a result of the Chernobyl accident have increased awareness and concern about the risk of autoimmune-related thyroid disease possibly associated with environmental radiation exposure. While the association between thyroidal irradiation and an increased risk of thyroid neoplasia is well established, much less attention has been devoted to the potential effects of environmental irradiation on the function of the thyroid. However, since the Chernobyl accident new studies have been published that appear to link radiation exposure to an increased risk of autoimmune thyroiditis. In order to assess the plausibility of this association, we reviewed published studies that evaluate the possible association between environmental thyroidal radiation and the presence of antithyroid antibodies as well as autoimmune thyroid disease (hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism). These data have not been summarized elsewhere. Although some epidemiologic evidence of an association exists, long-term, well-designed studies are needed to accurately evaluate the complex association between low-dose environmental radiation exposure and clinically significant non-neoplastic thyroid disease. The results of these studies will be important in determining the appropriate clinical follow-up of persons exposed to environmental thyroidal irradiation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autoimmune Diseases / blood
  • Autoimmune Diseases / diagnosis
  • Autoimmune Diseases / epidemiology
  • Autoimmune Diseases / etiology*
  • Autoimmunity / radiation effects
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Radiation Injuries / blood
  • Radiation Injuries / diagnosis
  • Radiation Injuries / epidemiology
  • Radiation Injuries / etiology*
  • Radioactive Hazard Release
  • Thyroid Diseases / blood
  • Thyroid Diseases / diagnosis
  • Thyroid Diseases / epidemiology
  • Thyroid Diseases / etiology*