A population-based case-control study of thyroid cancer

J Natl Cancer Inst. 1987 Jul;79(1):1-12.


A population-based case-control interview study of thyroid cancer (159 cases and 285 controls) was conducted in Connecticut. Prior radiotherapy to the head or neck was reported by 12% of the cases and 4% of the controls [odds ratio (OR) = 2.8; 95% confidence interval = 1.2-6.9]. Risk was inversely related to age at irradiation and was highest among children exposed under age 10. Few persons born after 1945 received prior radiotherapy, consistent with the declining use of radiation to treat benign conditions in the 1950's. Among females the radiogenic risk appeared to be potentiated by the number of subsequent live-births. Other significant risk factors included a history of benign thyroid nodules (OR = 33) or goiter (OR = 5.6). Miscarriage and multiparity increased risk but only among women who developed thyroid cancer before age 35 years. Consumption of shellfish (a rich source of iodine) seemed to increase the risk of follicular thyroid cancer, whereas consumption of goitrogen-containing vegetables appeared to reduce risk of total thyroid cancer, possibly because of their cruciferous nature. A significantly low risk was observed among persons of English descent, whereas Italian ancestry appeared to increase risk. No significant associations were found with a number of suspected risk factors: diagnostic x-rays, radioactive isotope scans, occupational radiation exposure, tonsillectomy, Jewish ethnicity, alcohol intake, cigarette smoking, oral contraceptives, lactation suppressants, menopausal estrogens, most other common medications, and water source. New associations were suggested for obesity among females (OR = 1.5), surgically treated benign breast disease (OR = 1.6), use of spironolactone (OR = 4.3) or vitamin D supplements (OR = 1.8), and a family history of thyroid cancer (OR = 5.2). About 9% of the incident thyroid cancers could be attributed to prior head and neck irradiation, 4% to goiter, and 17% to thyroid nodular disease, leaving the etiology of most thyroid cancers yet to be explained.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Connecticut
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parity
  • Radiotherapy / adverse effects
  • Registries
  • Risk
  • Sex Factors
  • Thyroid Diseases / complications
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / etiology*