The relationship of the clinicopathological characteristics and treatment results of post-Chornobyl papillary thyroid microcarcinomas with the latency period and radiation exposure

Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2022 Dec 14:13:1078258. doi: 10.3389/fendo.2022.1078258. eCollection 2022.


Introduction: A worldwide increase in the incidence of thyroid cancer during the last decades is largely due to papillary thyroid microcarcinomas (MPTCs), which are mostly low-risk tumors. In view of recent clinical recommendations to reduce the extent of surgery for low-risk thyroid cancer, and persisting uncertainty about the impact of radiation history, we set out to address whether clinicopathological characteristics and prognosis of post-Chornobyl MPTCs were changing with regard to: i) the latency period, ii) probability of causation (POC) of a tumor due to radiation, and iii) tumor size.

Methods: Patients (n = 465) aged up to 50 years at diagnosis who lived in April, 1986 in six northern, most radiocontaminated regions of Ukraine were studied.

Results: Latency period was statistically significantly associated with the reduction of POC level, tumor size and the frequency of fully encapsulated MPTCs. In contrast, the frequency of oncocytic changes and the BRAFV600E mutation increased. Invasive properties and clinical follow-up results did not depend on latency except for a lower frequency of complete remission after postsurgical radioiodine therapy. The POC level was associated with more frequent extrathyroidal extension, and lymphatic/vascular invasion, less frequent oncocytic changes and BRAFV600E , and did not associate with any clinical indicator. Tumor size was negatively associated with the latency period and BRAFV600E , and had a statistically significant effect on invasive properties of MPTCs: both the integrative invasiveness score and its components such as lymphatic/vascular invasion, extrathyroidal extension and lymph node metastases increased. The frequency of total thyroidectomy, neck lymph node dissection and radioiodine therapy also increased with the larger tumor size. The duration of the latency period, POC level or tumor size did not associate with the chance of disease recurrence.

Discussion: In summary, we did not observe overall worsening of the clinicopathological features or treatment results of radiogenic MPTCs that could be associated with the latency period or POC level, suggesting that radiation history did not strongly affect those in the analyzed MPTC patients. However, the increase in the invasive properties with tumor size indicates the need for individual risk stratification for each MPTC patient, regardless of radiation history, for treatment decision-making.

Keywords: BRAFV600E mutation; Chornobyl; clinical characteristics; invasiveness; latency period; probability of causation; radiogenic papillary thyroid microcarcinoma.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Chernobyl Nuclear Accident*
  • Humans
  • Iodine Radioisotopes / therapeutic use
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / pathology
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins B-raf / genetics
  • Radiation Exposure* / adverse effects
  • Thyroid Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Thyroid Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Thyroid Neoplasms* / radiotherapy
  • Thyroid Neoplasms* / surgery


  • Iodine Radioisotopes
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins B-raf
  • BRAF protein, human

Supplementary concepts

  • Papillary Thyroid Microcarcinoma