Systematic Review of Trends in the Incidence Rates of Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid. 2016 Nov;26(11):1541-1552. doi: 10.1089/thy.2016.0100.


Background: A large proportion of global increase in thyroid cancer (TC) incidence has been attributed to increased detection of papillary thyroid cancer (PTC). Nonetheless, some reports support a real increase in incidence. This study aimed to perform a systematic review to evaluate the changing trends in TC incidence and summarize potential risk factors predisposing to this trend.

Methods: Literature published in the English language between 1980 and August 2014 was searched via PubMed (MEDLINE) and OvidSP (EMBASE). Original studies on changes in TC incidence in defined geographic areas that described clear methods of case selection and population estimates were included. Data on incidence rates and risk factors were collected.

Results: Of 4719 manuscripts, 60 studies were included, of which 31 were from Europe, 13 from North America, and the rest from Asia (n = 9), Oceania (n = 4), and South America (n = 3). Fifty-three articles reported a significant increase in incidence (highest was a 10-fold increase in South Korea), six reported stable rates, and one noted a decrease. PTC was the commonest type reported to have increased in incidence (in 10 studies with relevant data). Follicular TC increased in incidence (in four studies), albeit at a lower rate compared with PTC. Data on risk factors were sparse; factors discussed included ionizing radiation, iodine deficiency, and supplementation.

Conclusion: This systematic review strongly supports a widespread and persistent increase in TC incidence. Evidence for over-detection of PTC as the predominant influence includes increased numbers of smaller size tumors and improved or unchanged survival.

Keywords: epidemiology; incidence; review; systematic; thyroid neoplasms.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma, Follicular / diagnosis
  • Adenocarcinoma, Follicular / epidemiology
  • Carcinoma, Papillary / diagnosis
  • Carcinoma, Papillary / epidemiology
  • Early Detection of Cancer* / trends
  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Female
  • Global Health* / trends
  • Health Transition*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Thyroid Cancer, Papillary
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / epidemiology

Supplementary concepts

  • Thyroid cancer, follicular