Thyroid Cancer Risk Factors

Anything that increases your chance of getting thyroid cancer is a risk factor. Risk factors include:

  • Age: Two-thirds of thyroid cancer cases occur between ages 20 and 55
  • Gender: Women are three times as likely as men to develop thyroid cancer. Papillary thyroid cancer is found most often in women of childbearing age
  • Exposure to radiation, including X-rays, especially during childhood
  • Inherited disorders: Familial medullary thyroid cancer usually is caused by an inherited mutation in the RET gene. If your parent has the gene mutation, you have a 50% chance of having it too. If you inherit the gene, you are likely to develop the cancer. Other types of thyroid cancer also may be caused by diseases that run in families.
  • Iodine deficiency: This is uncommon in the United States, where iodine often is added to table salt. In other areas of the world, especially inland regions without fish and shellfish in the diet, iodine levels are sometimes too low.

Not everyone with risk factors gets thyroid cancer. However, if you have risk factors, it’s a good idea to discuss them with your doctor.

If you are concerned about inherited family syndromes that cause thyroid cancer, we offer advanced genetic testing to let you know your risk.