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Increase in Thyroid Cancer Puzzles Experts
Date:7/14/2009

Uptick since 1980 cannot be explained solely by better screening: study

TUESDAY, July 14 (HealthDay News) -- Intensified screening doesn't entirely explain the jump in thyroid cancers noted in the United States since 1980, and scientists now believe that other as-yet-unknown factors are to blame.

A new study finds that thyroid tumors of all sizes are being picked up, not just the smaller ones that more aggressive screening would be expected to detect.

"You cannot simply explain this by increased screening, there's a real increased incidence," said Dr. Amy Chen, lead author of a study published online July 13 in the journal Cancer.

Although, "some of this increased incidence is due to increased screening finding smaller tumors," she added.

The findings surprised one expert.

"I wrote a chapter about this for a textbook about a year ago and I came away thinking this [rise in cancers] is a reflection of enhanced diagnostics," said Dr. Bruce J. Davidson, professor and chairman of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C. But, "it is more disturbing that it's not just small tumors; it seems to be all tumors," he said.

An estimated 37,200 new cases of thyroid cancer will be diagnosed this year, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute. Fortunately, the cancer is considered highly curable, but the researchers said survival rates have not improved with better detection.

Until now, an uptick in cases seen over the past three decades was attributed to increased use of ultrasound and image-guided biopsy to detect tumors. Some researchers had found that thyroid cancer was diagnosed more often in areas with higher incomes and less in uninsured populations, adding further credence to this theory.

Looking at thyroid cancer cases from 1988 to 2005 reported in a large cancer database, Chen and her team foun
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