The clinical and economic burden of a sustained increase in thyroid cancer incidence

Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2013 Jul;22(7):1252-9. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-13-0242. Epub 2013 May 15.


Background: Thyroid cancer incidence is increasing worldwide at an alarming rate, yet little is known of the impact this increase will have on society. We sought to determine the clinical and economic burden of a sustained increase in thyroid cancer incidence in the United States and to understand how these burdens correlate with the National Cancer Institute's (NCI) prioritization of thyroid cancer research funding.

Methods: We used the NCI's SEER 13 database (1992-2009) and Joinpoint regression software to identify the current clinical burden of thyroid cancer and to project future incidence through 2019. We combined Medicare reimbursement rates with American Thyroid Association guidelines, and our clinical practice to create an economic model of thyroid cancer. We obtained research-funding data from the NCI's Office of Budget and Finance. RESULTS; By 2019, papillary thyroid cancer will double in incidence and become the third most common cancer in women of all ages at a cost of $18 to $21 billion dollars in the United States. Despite these substantial clinical and economic burdens, thyroid cancer research remains significantly underfunded by comparison, and in 2009 received only $14.7 million (ranked 30th) from the NCI.

Conclusion: The impact of thyroid cancer on society has been significantly underappreciated, as is evidenced by its low priority in national research funding levels.

Impact: Increased awareness in the medical community and the general public of the societal burden of thyroid cancer, and substantial increases in research on thyroid cancer etiology, prevention, and treatment are needed to offset these growing concerns.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cost of Illness
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Female
  • Health Care Costs
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • SEER Program
  • Sex Factors
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / economics
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / pathology
  • United States / epidemiology