Obesity Advances Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer in obese people more advanced and aggressive

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) The increase in thyroid cancer seen recently may be related to the obesity epidemic. This hasn't been clinically proven, but the trends are similar.

Meanwhile, what is now known is that obesity exacerbates the disease.

Individuals who are obese tend have a more aggressive and advanced stage of papillary thyroid cancer (PTC) at the time of diagnosis, according to a recent UCLA review.

"Incorporate small changes in diet and movement to add up weight loss over time."

Thyroid cancer has been increasing in the United States since 1980. According to the National Cancer Institute, the incidence among men increased 6.6 percent, and among women 7 percent from 1997-2009.

Most of the increase is in PTC, according to the authors. It's not clear whether this trend is due to an increased risk of cancer or detection.

“Our study shows that those patients with increasing BMI have a progressively increasing risk in presenting with late-stage PTC. This finding is especially seen in the obese and morbidly obese populations,” the researchers comment.

Avital Harari, MD led a team of investigators at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine that reviewed the records of 443 people who had a thyroidectomy (surgical removal of all or most of the thyroid).

These individuals had undergone the surgery to treat PTC and other forms of thyroid cancer between 2004-2011. Participants were placed into one of four groups, according to their BMI (body mass index).

Researchers found that the greater the BMI, the more advanced the disease at the time of diagnosis. 

“Specifically, the obese and morbidly obese categories presented more as stage III or IV disease,” according to study results. 

There was a greater incidence of more aggressive tumor types among obese and morbidly obese groups.

The authors conclude, “Given our findings, we believe that obese patients are at a higher risk of developing aggressive thyroid cancers and thus should be screened for thyroid cancer by sonography, which has been shown to be more sensitive in detecting thyroid cancer than physical examination alone.”  

This report was published May 21, 2012 Online First by Archives of Surgery, a JAMA Network publication.

The statistical support was funded by an intramural faculty start-up grant. No financial disclosures were reported.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 23, 2012
Last Updated:
July 24, 2012