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Thyroid cancer

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Head or Neck



It's often not possible to prevent thyroid cancer. But the following measures may reduce or eliminate your risk:

  • Preventive (prophylactic) surgery. If you've inherited a defective RET gene, you may choose to have your thyroid gland surgically removed, even though the gland appears to be healthy. This pre-emptive approach eliminates the risk of thyroid cancer but doesn't reduce the likelihood of adrenal or parathyroid tumors in people with MEN 2 syndrome.

  • Potassium iodide tablets. Current government guidelines recommend that people within 10 miles of these plants be provided with potassium iodide tablets. Taken just before or immediately after exposure to nuclear fallout, potassium iodide protects your thyroid gland from iodine 131, though not from other radioactive material. Children are most at risk from exposure to radioactive iodine, and potassium iodide is safe and effective for even very young children when taken in the proper dosage. Short-term side effects, which are more common in adults than in children, include intestinal problems, allergic reactions and minor rashes. You shouldn't take potassium iodide if you have multinodular goiter, Graves' disease or autoimmune thyroiditis.

  • A healthy diet. A diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in animal fat can reduce your risk of many types of cancer. Add to these six servings of foods from other plant sources such as breads, cereals, rice and beans. Saturated fats, such as those found in red meat, should make up no more than 10 percent of your total calories. Instead, emphasize unsaturated fats (omega-3 fatty acids), especially those found in salmon and other fish, which may help protect against cancer. Maintaining a healthy weight can also help protect against many diseases, including cancer of the thyroid.

Radioactive Iodine for Thyroid Cancer May Increase Risk of Breast Cancer

The authors of a new study propose a relationship between the post-surgical use of radioactive iodine (RAI) treatments for thyroid cancer, and the later development of breast cancer.

Using the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database, the researchers found that young women (30-34 years) with thyroid cancer exhibited the greatest risk of developing breast cancer.

Women who were between the ages of 40 and 44 at initial diagnosis of thyroid cancer were also at significantly elevated risk, with the greatest risk appearing 15-20 years after the thyroid cancer.

The study concluded that premenopausal adult Caucasian women who are treated for differentiated thyroid cancer are at increased risk to develop breast cancer five to 20 years later.

This finding suggests that the increased risk of breast cancer after thyroid cancer is related to the thyroid cancer treatment. In particular, the RAI treatment is suspected to be the agent involved in increasing the cancer risk.

The authors' recommendation is for regular follow-up of all women patients with thyroid cancer and "judicious use of radioactive iodine as a treatment regimen."

Click here to read the American Academy of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery Foundation release regarding this research.

According to Mary Shomon, the Thyroid Guide at About.com, "of critical importance to women who have had RAI treatment for Graves' Disease is the need for a definitive study looking at whether the lower levels of RAI used to ablate the thyroid also pose an increased risk of breast cancer. Given that RAI is the preferred treatment for hyperthyroidism in the U.S., this is an important question."

Annual meeting of the American Academy of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery Foundation Washington, D.C, October 2000.

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