Body Mass Index and Thyroid Cancer Risk: A Pooled Analysis of Half a Million Men and Women in the Asia Cohort Consortium

Thyroid. 2022 Mar;32(3):306-314. doi: 10.1089/thy.2021.0445. Epub 2022 Jan 11.


Background: Although previous meta-analyses have suggested a dose-response relationship between body mass index (BMI) and thyroid cancer risk, limited evidence has been presented about Asian populations. To assess this association among Asian populations, where underweight is more prevalent than in other regions, a pooled analysis from the Asia Cohort Consortium was conducted. Methods: Baseline height and weight were measured in five cohorts and self-reported in eight cohorts. Thyroid cancer incidence was ascertained by linkage to local cancer registries. Cohorts were treated as a stratum in the Cox proportional hazard model to estimate the pooled hazard ratios (HRs) and corresponding confidence intervals (CIs) from the estimates for each cohort. All analyses were stratified by sex. Results: A total of 538,857 men and women from 13 cohorts from mainland China, Korea, Japan, and Singapore were included in the analysis. During a mean of 15.1 years of follow-up, 1132 thyroid cancer cases were ascertained. Using a BMI of 18.5-22.9 kg/m2 as a reference, an elevated risk of thyroid cancer was observed for groups with a BMI between 25 and 29.9 kg/m2 (HR: 1.31, [CI: 0.95-1.80]) and a BMI of 30 kg/m2 and greater (HR: 1.84, [CI: 0.89-3.81]) in men. Thyroid cancer risk was elevated in women with a BMI of 23-24.9 kg/m2 (HR: 1.26, [CI: 1.07-1.48]). The HRs for 5-U increment of BMI showed a linear association among men (HR: 1.25, [CI 1.10-1.55]) but not among women (HR: 1.07, [CI: 0.97-1.18]). Although the overall thyroid cancer risk was lower among underweight men and women, the papillary cancer risk may be elevated among underweight men (HR: 2.24, [CI: 0.75-6.66]). Conclusion: While higher BMI is associated with an elevated risk of thyroid cancer in both men and women, the association of underweight BMI may differ by sex and histological subtype.

Keywords: body mass index; cohort consortium; obesity; thyroid cancer.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Asia / epidemiology
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Risk Factors
  • Thyroid Neoplasms* / epidemiology