Thyroid Cancer Survivors May Have Increased Risk of Osteoporosis and Heart Conditions

The results of a recent new study find that younger survivors of thyroid cancer are at increased risk for osteoporosis, high blood pressure and heart disease.  Thyroid cancer is the fifth most common cancer in women.

The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ that is below the Adam’s apple in the front part of the neck. It produces, stores, and releases hormones that regulate vital body functions.

Thyroid cancer happens when cells in the thyroid grow out of control. There are two main types of cells in the thyroid: follicular cells and C cells. Follicular cells use iodine from the blood that makes hormones which help regulate metabolism. C cells make calcitonin, a hormone that helps control how the body uses calcium. Less common cells in the thyroid are lymphocytes (immune system cells) and stromal cells.

Different cancers develop from each kind of cell, with each having a different level of disease and treatment. In 2016, the ACS estimates 62,450 new cases of thyroid cancer and 1,980 deaths. Although the death rate has remained steady for thyroid cancer for many years, the chances of being diagnosed has tripled in the last 3 decades.

As the number of thyroid cancer survivors it’s increasingly important to understand long-term side effects from treatment so the best long term medical treatment can be provided to survivors

The current study examined medical records from 3,706 patients in Utah who were diagnosed with thyroid and compared them to a matched control group of 15,587 people who did not have a cancer diagnosis. The researchers found that survivors diagnosed with thyroid cancer before the age of 40 were more likely to develop heart problems including heart valve disease, high blood pressure and cardiac dysrhythmias. In addition, younger patients were more than seven times as likely to develop osteoporosis.

The risk of late effects among patients diagnosed at 40 years or older, was similar but to a lesser extent than patients diagnosed before age 40. Older patients were twice as likely to have high blood and osteoporosis.

The researchers believe that younger patients were more likely to be treated with radioactive iodine therapy, external-beam radiation and hormone therapy and this may explain the difference in long term side effects.

Reference: Brenna Blackburn et. al.  Late effects among young thyroid cancer survivors.  J Clin Oncol 35, 2017 (suppl 5S; abstr 111)

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