Environmental factors and autoimmune thyroiditis

Nat Clin Pract Endocrinol Metab. 2008 Aug;4(8):454-60. doi: 10.1038/ncpendmet0896. Epub 2008 Jul 8.


Autoimmune thyroiditis, of which Hashimoto thyroiditis represents the most frequent form, is an inflammatory state of the thyroid gland that results from the interaction between genetic variants that promote susceptibility and environmental factors. High iodine intake, selenium deficiency, pollutants such as tobacco smoke, infectious diseases such as chronic hepatitis C, and certain drugs are implicated in the development of autoimmune thyroiditis, primarily in genetically predisposed people. Long-term iodine exposure leads to increased iodination of thyroglobulin, which increases its antigenicity and initiates the autoimmune process in genetically susceptible individuals. Selenium deficiency decreases the activity of selenoproteins, including glutathione peroxidases, which can lead to raised concentrations of hydrogen peroxide and thus promote inflammation and disease. Such environmental pollutants as smoke, polychlorinated biphenyls, solvents and metals have been implicated in the autoimmune process and inflammation. Environmental factors have not yet, however, been sufficiently investigated to clarify their roles in pathogenesis, and there is a need to assess their effects on development of the autoimmune process and the mechanisms of their interactions with susceptibility genes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Iodine / metabolism*
  • Risk Factors
  • Selenium / deficiency*
  • Smoke / adverse effects
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Thyroiditis, Autoimmune / etiology
  • Thyroiditis, Autoimmune / genetics
  • Thyroiditis, Autoimmune / metabolism*


  • Smoke
  • Iodine
  • Selenium