Noteworthy Numbers Thyroid Cancer August 2020

TON - August 2020, Vol 13, No 4

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland that produces hormones essential in maintaining normal heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and metabolism. Thyroid cancer represents only 2.9% of new cancer cases annually in the United States but occurs approximately 3 times as often in women as in men.1,2 The following information about thyroid cancer may prove helpful.

There are 3 main types of thyroid cancer. Differentiated thyroid cancer, which includes papillary, follicular, and Hürthle-cell cancers, is the most common form of the disease. Medullary thyroid cancer, which includes sporadic and familial cancers, comprises approximately 4% of all thyroid cancers. Anaplastic carcinoma is a rare form of thyroid cancer, making up only about 2% of all thyroid cancers.2

In the United States, an estimated 52,890 new cases of thyroid cancer (12,720 in men and 40,170 in women) will be diagnosed in 2020, and approximately 2180 deaths will occur because of the disease (1040 in men and 1140 in women).2 In 2020, it is estimated that thyroid cancer will be the most frequently diagnosed cancer in people aged 15 to 29 years.3 In pediatrics, thyroid cancer is most commonly diagnosed in teenage girls, and is estimated to be the second most commonly diagnosed cancer.4

Thyroid cancer accounts for 0.4% of all cancer deaths.1 The death rate of thyroid cancer has been stable over the past 10 years; however, the age-adjusted death rates have been rising an average of 0.7% each year from 2008 to 2017.1

Prognosis varies depending on patient’s gender, as well as type and location of the cancer. Although women are 3 times more likely to have thyroid cancer, the death rates for both genders is comparable, suggesting that men have a worse prognosis than women.3 The overall 5-year survival rate for patients with thyroid cancer is 98.3%.1,3 In patients with localized papillary, follicular, and medullary thyroid cancers, the 5-year survival rate is approximately 100%; 31% for localized anaplastic thyroid cancer; 99% for regional papillary thyroid cancer; 96% for regional follicular cancer; 90% for regional medullary cancer; and 12% for regional anaplastic thyroid cancer.3


  1. National Cancer Institute. SEER Cancer stat facts: thyroid cancer. Updated April 2020. Accessed July 2, 2020.
  2. American Cancer Society. Thyroid cancer. Updated January 8, 2020. Accessed July 2, 2020.
  3. Cancer.Net. Thyroid cancer. Updated January 2020. Accessed July 6, 2020.
  4. American Thyroid Association. General information/press room. Accessed July 6, 2020.

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