Background: Thyroid cancer incidence rates have increased in many countries and settings; however, mortality rates have remained stable at lower rates. This epidemiological pattern has been largely attributed to an overdiagnosis effect. Timely evidence for the global epidemiological status is necessary to identify the magnitude of this problem and the areas mostly affected by it. We therefore aimed to provide an up-to-date assessment on the global distribution of thyroid cancer incidence and mortality rates in 2020.
Methods: We extracted age-standardised incidence and mortality rates per 100 000 person-years of thyroid cancer as defined by the International Classification of Diseases for Oncology 10th Revision (code C73), for 185 countries or territories by sex and 18 age groups (ie, 0-4, 5-9, …, 80-84, and ≥85 years) from the GLOBOCAN database. Both incidence and mortality estimates were presented by country and aggregated across the 20 UN-defined world regions and according to the UN's four-tier Human Development Index (ie, low, medium, high, and very high) in 2020.
Findings: Globally, in 2020, the age-standardised incidence rates of thyroid cancer were 10·1 per 100 000 women and 3·1 per 100 000 men, and age-standardised mortality rates were 0·5 per 100 000 women and 0·3 per 100 000 men. In both sexes, incidence rates were five times higher in high and very high Human Development Index countries than in low and medium Human Development Index countries, whereas mortality rates were relatively similar across different settings. Incidence rates in women differed by more than 15 times across world regions, with the highest incidence rates being in the Federated States of Micronesia and French Polynesia (18·5 per 100 000 women), North America (18·4 per 100 000), and east Asia (17·8 per 100 000, with South Korea reaching 45 per 100 000). Mortality rates were less than one per 100 000 in most countries and in both sexes. South Korea had the highest incidence-to-mortality rate ratio in both sexes, followed by Cyprus and Canada.
Interpretation: The current thyroid cancer epidemiological landscape is strongly suggestive of a large effect of overdiagnosis in many countries and settings worldwide, confirming the relevance of thyroid cancer overdiagnosis as a global public health problem.
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