Are endogenously lower serum thyroid hormones new predictors for thyroid malignancy in addition to higher serum thyrotropin?

Endocrine. 2010 Apr;37(2):253-60. doi: 10.1007/s12020-010-9316-6. Epub 2010 Mar 13.


It is well known that TSH plays a major role in the secretion of thyroid hormones, maintenance of thyroid specific gene expression, and gland growth. In this study, we aimed to evaluate association between tests of thyroid functions (fT3, fT4, TSH) and differentiated thyroid carcinoma. 441 patients operated for nodular goiter between 2005 and 2008 were analyzed. Thyroid functions were studied in the period of 1-30 days prior to surgery. In postoperative histopathological examination, differentiated thyroid carcinoma and benign thyroid disease were detected in 166 (37.6%) and 275 (62.4%) patients, respectively. Patients with thyroid malignancy had significantly lower serum fT3 (P = 0.001), lower fT4 (P = 0.022), and higher TSH levels (P < 0.001) compared to patients with benign disease, although all analytes were within the normal range. We subdivided by quartile serum fT3, fT4, and TSH in normal limits into three groups. The odds ratio (ORs) for the risk of thyroid cancer with a serum TSH between 0.63 and 1.67 μIU/ml and 1.68-4.00 μIU/ml, compared with a serum TSH between 0.40 and 0.62 μIU/ml were calculated as 2.60 (95% CIs 1.49-4.54) and 6.50 (95% CIs 3.51-12.03), respectively. There was also a greater risk of thyroid cancer in patients with fT3 levels of 1.57-3.00 pg/ml, compared with patients with fT3 levels of 3.89-4.71 pg/ml (OR 2.95, 95% CIs 1.68-5.20). For fT4, OR for the risk of thyroid cancer between 0.85 and 1.17 ng/dl compared with 1.48-1.78 ng/dl was 2.14 (95% CIs 1.22-3.74). In conclusion, lower fT3, fT4, and higher TSH concentrations within normal limits were related with increased thyroid cancer independent from sex and nodule type. Particularly, the association between lower fT3, fT4 levels and a diagnosis of thyroid cancer is a novel finding.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Autoantibodies / blood
  • Biopsy, Fine-Needle
  • Female
  • Goiter, Nodular / blood
  • Goiter, Nodular / diagnosis
  • Goiter, Nodular / surgery
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Preoperative Care
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / blood*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / surgery
  • Thyrotropin / blood*
  • Thyroxine / blood*
  • Triiodothyronine / blood*


  • Autoantibodies
  • Triiodothyronine
  • Thyrotropin
  • Thyroxine