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Thyroid Cancer: Risk Factors

What is a risk factor?

A risk factor is anything that may increase your chance of having a disease. Risk factors for a certain type of cancer might include smoking, unhealthy diet, excess weight, decreased physical activity, family history, or many other things. The exact cause of someone’s cancer may not be known. But risk factors can make it more likely for a person to have cancer.

Things you should know about risk factors for cancer:

  • Risk factors can increase your risk, but they might not cause the disease.

  • Some people with 1 or more risk factors may never get cancer. Other people can get cancer but have no risk factors.

  • Some risk factors are very well known. But experts are studying risk factors for many types of cancer.

Some risk factors may not be in your control. This includes your family history, age, or gender. But others may be things you can change. Knowing the risk factors can help you make choices that might lower your risk. For example, if an unhealthy diet is a risk factor, you may choose to eat healthy foods. If excess weight is a risk factor, your healthcare provider may check your weight or help you lose weight.

Who is at risk for thyroid cancer?

Risk factors for thyroid cancer include:

  • Gender. Women have 3 times the risk of getting thyroid cancer than men.

  • Age. Thyroid cancer can occur at any age. But it is more common in women in their 40s and 50s, and men in their 60s and 70s.

  • History of radiation exposure. Your risk is higher if you had radiation to your neck or throat area as a child. It’s also higher if you were exposed to nuclear fallout from power plant accidents or nuclear weapons.

  • Iodine deficiency. Your risk is higher if you have a diet low in the mineral iodine.

  • Family history. Thyroid cancer and thyroid disease can run in families. Also people with some inherited genetic diseases that are passed down in families are at higher risk.

  • Goiter. A goiter is an enlarged thyroid. If you have had a goiter or a family history of thyroid disease, you may be at an increased risk for thyroid cancer.

What are your risk factors?

Talk with your healthcare provider about your risk factors for thyroid cancer and what you can do about them.

Online Medical Reviewer: Hurd, Robert, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Stump-Sutliff, Kim, RN, MSN, AOCNS
Date Last Reviewed: 5/1/2018
© 2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.
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