Background: We hypothesized that diabetes may play a role in thyroid cancer risk due to the parallel secular rise in diabetes prevalence and morbidity in the United States, the higher prevalence of thyroid disorders among diabetics compared with the general population, and the potential roles of metabolic syndrome, obesity, and diabetes as precipitating factors in cancer development.
Methods: We assessed the association between self-reported diabetes and the risk of differentiated thyroid cancer in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study, a prospective cohort of 200,556 women and 295,992 men, 50-71 years of age, in 1995-1996. Diabetes status and information on potential confounders was ascertained using a self-administered questionnaire. During an average of 10 years of follow-up, 585 thyroid cancer cases were identified. Cox proportional hazards models were used to estimate hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for thyroid cancer and thyroid cancer subtypes in men and women according to diabetes status.
Results: Nine percent of the total baseline cohort reported a history of diabetes (7% of women, 10% of men). A nonsignificant 25% increase in thyroid cancer risk (HR = 1.25; 95% CI: 0.95-1.64) was associated with diabetes. Among women, the risk was significantly increased (HR = 1.46, 95% CI: 1.01-2.10). The risk was not elevated among men (HR = 1.04, 95% CI: 0.69-1.58). In this cohort, diabetic women with differentiated thyroid cancer were at somewhat higher risk of follicular thyroid cancer (HR = 1.92; 95% CI: 0.86-4.27) than papillary thyroid cancer (HR = 1.25; 95% CI: 0.80-1.97).
Conclusion: This study lends support to the hypothesis that diabetes increases the risk of differentiated thyroid cancer.