Diagnostic radiography exposure increases the risk for thyroid microcarcinoma: a population-based case-control study

Eur J Cancer Prev. 2015 Sep;24(5):439-46. doi: 10.1097/CEJ.0000000000000169.


Thyroid cancer incidence and diagnostic radiography exposures, particularly computed tomography (CT) scanning and nuclear medicine examinations, have increased substantially in the USA. However, very few epidemiologic studies have directly investigated their associations. A population-based case-control study was conducted in Connecticut in 2010-2011, including 462 histologically confirmed incident thyroid cancer cases and 498 population-based controls. Multivariate unconditional logistic regression models were used to estimate the associations between diagnostic radiography and the risk of thyroid cancer, controlling for potential confounding factors. Exposure to any form of diagnostic radiography was associated with an increased risk of well-differentiated thyroid microcarcinoma [tumor size≤10 mm, odds ratio (OR)=2.76, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.31-5.81]. The highest risk increase occurred with nuclear medicine examinations (excluding cardiology tests and thyroid uptake studies; OR=5.47, 95% CI: 2.10-14.23), followed by chest CT scanning (OR=4.30, 95% CI: 1.66-11.14), head and neck CT scanning (OR=3.88, 95% CI: 1.75-8.63), upper gastrointestinal series (OR=3.56, 95% CI: 1.54-8.21), lower gastrointestinal series (OR=3.29, 95% CI: 1.41-7.66), kidney radiography involving dye injection into a vein or artery (OR=3.21, 95% CI: 1.20-8.54), mammography (OR=2.95, 95% CI: 1.14-7.61), chest radiography (OR=2.93, 95% CI: 1.37-6.29), and abdomen CT scanning (OR=2.54, 95% CI: 1.02-6.30). No significant associations were found between these imaging modalities and thyroid tumors larger than 10 mm. This study provides the first direct evidence that CT scanning and nuclear medicine examinations are associated with an increased risk of thyroid cancer. The novel finding that an array of diagnostic radiography procedures are associated with thyroid microcarcinomas warrants further investigation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma, Follicular / diagnosis
  • Adenocarcinoma, Follicular / epidemiology
  • Adenocarcinoma, Follicular / etiology*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carcinoma / diagnosis
  • Carcinoma / epidemiology
  • Carcinoma / etiology*
  • Carcinoma, Medullary / diagnosis
  • Carcinoma, Medullary / epidemiology
  • Carcinoma, Medullary / etiology*
  • Carcinoma, Papillary
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Diagnostic Imaging / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / diagnosis
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / etiology*
  • Prognosis
  • Radiography / adverse effects*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Thyroid Cancer, Papillary
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult