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Thyroid Cancer Cases Influx Blamed on Overdiagnosis

Statistics reveal that thyroid cases have nearly tripled since 1975. With thyroid cases on the rise, people automatically begin to fear the risk of thyroid cancer. However, according to a new study, people need to fear not because the large spike in the number of thyroid cases is caused by over diagnosis. This revelation also suggests that the disease is being over treated.

Thyroid Cancer

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“The incidence of thyroid cancer is at epidemic proportions, but it doesn’t look like an epidemic of disease, it looks like an epidemic of diagnosis,” said lead researcher Dr. H. Gilbert Welch, a professor of medicine at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, reported by WebMD. “This means that a lot of people are having their thyroids removed for a cancer that was never going to bother them.”According to the researchers, the rate of thyroid cases has leaped from 4.9 cases per 100,000 people in 1975 to 14.3 cases per 100,000 people in 2009. The greater majority of these cases was papillary thyroid cancer, with the incidence rate from 3.4 to 12.5 cases per 100,000 people. Papillary thyroid cancer is the most common form of thyroid cancer; however it is also the least aggressive. Welch says this type of cancer could be treated using the “watch-and-wait” approach, which is often seen in prostate cancer.

“We have to be really cautious that we don’t create more problems than we solve. We will be looking hard at the question of watchful waiting for small papillary thyroid cancers, and we are going to be asking hard questions about whether we should even be looking for them,” Welch said.

The team of researchers added that the highest increase in incidence rates was in women. From 1975 to 2009, the rate jumped from 6.5 to an astounding 21.4 cases per 100,000 women. While numbers have increased, the overall death rate from thyroid cancer stayed at around 0.5 deaths per 100,000 people.

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