Clinicopathological features of thyroid cancer in the elderly compared to younger counterparts: single-center experience

J Endocrinol Invest. 2017 May;40(5):471-479. doi: 10.1007/s40618-016-0577-7. Epub 2016 Nov 24.


Purpose: The incidence of thyroid cancer is increased in elderly patients. It tends to be larger and have more aggressive characteristics in these patients. Our aim was to compare features of thyroid carcinoma in geriatric and non-geriatric patients.

Methods: In total, 933 patients with thyroid cancer were retrospectively reviewed. Thyroid functions, ultrasonography features of malignant nodules, cytological and histopathological findings and the rates of recurrence and persistence were compared in patients ≥65 and <65 years old.

Results: There were 153 malignant foci in 109 (11.7%) patients ≥65 and 1185 malignant foci in 824 (88.3%) patients <65 years old. Mean nodule diameter was significantly higher in geriatric patients (p = 0.008). Most of the ultrasonographical features of malignant nodules were similar in two groups. Hypoechoic halo was observed in 16.4 and 28.6% of malignant nodules in geriatric and non-geriatric group, respectively (p = 0.034). There was no significant difference in cytological diagnosis. Histopathologically, tumor diameter, rates of microcarcinomas and incidentality were similar. Of all cancer types, 88.8% in geriatric and 93.9% in non-geriatric group were papillary thyroid cancer (p = 0.028). Hurthle cell cancer constituted 3.9 and 1.1% of carcinomas in geriatric and non-geriatric patients, respectively (p = 0.015); 2.0 and 0.2% of tumors in geriatric and non-geriatric group were anaplastic, respectively (p = 0.012). Capsular and vascular invasion, extrathyroidal extension, persistence and recurrence rates were similar.

Conclusions: Rates of anaplastic cancer and Hurthle cell cancer which is known to have worser prognosis among other differentiated thyroid cancers are increased in geriatric ages. Cytological evaluation of thyroid nodules should strongly be considered due to increased tendency for aggressive tumor types in these patients.

Keywords: Cytopathology; Geriatric; Histopathology; Thyroid cancer; Ultrasonography.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma, Follicular / pathology*
  • Adenocarcinoma, Follicular / surgery
  • Adenocarcinoma, Papillary / pathology*
  • Adenocarcinoma, Papillary / surgery
  • Aged
  • Biopsy, Fine-Needle
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / surgery
  • Thyroid Nodule / pathology*
  • Thyroid Nodule / surgery