Thiocyanate overload and thyroid disease

Biofactors. 2003;19(3-4):107-11. doi: 10.1002/biof.5520190302.


Thiocyanate [SCN-] is a complex anion which is a potent inhibitor of iodide transport. It is the detoxification product of cyanide and can easily be measured in body fluids. Consumption of naturally occurring goitrogens, certain environmental toxins and cigarette smoke can significantly increase SCN- concentrations to levels potentially capable of affecting the thyroid gland. Goiter endemics were reported to develop when the critical urinary iodine/ SCN- ratio decreases below 3 microg iodine per mg SCN-. Iodine supplementation completely reverses the goitrogenic influence of SCN-. SCN- is also generated from cigarette smoking as a detoxifying product of cyanide. During the past two decades many reports dealt with the possible effects of cigarette smoking on thyroid hormone synthesis, thyroid gland size and thyroid autoimmunity including infiltrative ophtalmopathy of Graves' disease. In this mini-review, issues regarding thiocyanate overload and thyroid disease will be summarized.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Iodine / therapeutic use
  • Manihot / adverse effects
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Thiocyanates / adverse effects*
  • Thyroid Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Thyroid Diseases / drug therapy
  • Thyroid Diseases / epidemiology


  • Thiocyanates
  • Iodine
  • thiocyanate