The epidemiology of thyroid disease

Br Med Bull. 2011;99:39-51. doi: 10.1093/bmb/ldr030.


Introduction: Thyroid disorders are prevalent and their manifestations are determined by the dietary iodine availability.

Sources of data: Data from screening large population samples from USA and Europe.

Areas of agreement: The most common cause of thyroid disorders worldwide is iodine deficiency, leading to goitre formation and hypothyroidism. In iodine-replete areas, most persons with thyroid disorders have autoimmune disease.

Areas of controversy: Definition of thyroid disorders, selection criteria used, influence of age and sex, environmental factors and the different techniques used for assessment of thyroid function.

Growing points: Increasing incidence of well-differentiated thyroid cancer. Environmental iodine influences the epidemiology of non-malignant thyroid disease.

Areas timely for developing research: Iodine supplementation of populations with mild-to-moderate iodine deficiency. An evidence-based strategy for the risk stratification, treatment and follow-up of benign nodular thyroid disease. Is there any benefit in screening adults for thyroid dysfunction?

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Effect Modifier, Epidemiologic
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Iodine* / deficiency
  • Iodine* / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Thyroid Diseases* / diagnosis
  • Thyroid Diseases* / epidemiology
  • Thyroid Diseases* / etiology
  • Thyroid Diseases* / therapy
  • Thyroid Function Tests / methods*
  • Thyroid Gland / pathology
  • Trace Elements / therapeutic use
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Trace Elements
  • Iodine