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Thyroid Cancer - Breast Cancer Connection Found

Sept 26, 2001

A new study being presented this week at the American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery Foundation annual meeting being held in Washington DC The study, being presented Tuesday September 26, points to a link between thyroid cancer treatment and an increased risk of developing breast cancer.

Thyroid cancer is generally treated by surgical removal of the cancerous thyroid followed by therapeutic doses of radioactive iodine (131T). The iodine will be concentrated in the thyroid tissue, but there could be radioactive exposure to other tissue that has sodium/iodine transport mechanism. Breast tissue is and an example of such tissue.

The study used data available in National Cancer Institute’s database. This database has the most comprehensive data available for all cancers. After excluding subjects less than 20 years of age, those with less than 2 years between diagnosis of thyroid and breast cancer and those whose cancer was only diagnosed on autopsy, a total of 365 women were included in the study.

The study found that premenopausal Caucasian women who are treated for differential thyroid cancer with radio active iodine are at increased risk of developing breast cancer five to twenty years later. The study also showed there was no increased risk to developing thyroid cancer after diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. The data suggests that thyroid cancer treatment is the causative effect.


  • If you have been treated with radioactive iodine for thyroid cancer, breast cancer screening becomes even more important. Yearly mammogram even under the age of 40 would be indicated, monthly self breast examination would be of even greater importance.
  • Physicians need to be more vigilant in their use of radioactive iodine for treatment of thyroid cancer. Patients need to be informed of the possible risks of the treatment and risks of not following this treatment regime.
  • Medical personnel need to stress the importance of follow-up and early detection of breast changes in preventing or reducing the incidence of breast cancer in the future.

Sources: American Academy of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery

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