by HILLARY EATON Last Updated: Dec 07, 2016
With more than 14 million people living with cancer in the U.S.today and over 1.6 million new cancer cases diagnosed yearly, it’s safe to say that you or someone you know has had a brush with cancer. Though cancer death rates have been in steady decline in the U.S., there is one form that is on a startling rise: thyroid cancer….
What Exactly Is Thyroid Cancer?
The thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland located in the front part of the neck, is responsible for producing thyroid hormones from iodine in the blood. These hormones affect your metabolism rate, which means they influence how fast or slow your brain, heart, muscles and liver work. So, yeah: They’re kind of important.
According to the American Cancer Association, thyroid cancer occurs when the cells in the thyroid gland begin to grow out of control. When normal thyroid cells grow old or get damaged, they die and new cells take their place.
The National Cancer Institute explains that when this process goes wrong, new cells form when the body does not need them and old or damaged cells do not die as they should. That leads to a buildup of extra cells that form a mass of tissue called a nodule — aka a growth or tumor…
…Why IS Thyroid Cancer on the Rise?
Gary Bloom, executive director of ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association, Inc., tells us: “Medical professionals largely attribute the increase in thyroid cancer diagnoses to better imaging techniques, which has led to the discovery of many more micropapillary thyroid cancers — very small tumors that are usually less than 1 centimeter in size. However, some of the increase seems to have been in larger tumors, which is unrelated to better imaging.”
So is it overdiagnosis rather than an actual epidemic? According to a report published in JAMA, thyroid cancer has long been a common find during autopsies, despite never having caused symptoms during a patient’s life, indicating that nodules are extraordinarily common….
…Overall, there is not enough evidence to definitively explain why thyroid cancer is on the rise in America— whether it is due to overdiagnosis or something else.
Can You Protect Yourself Against Thyroid Cancer?
Bloom says that the best thing to do is avoid radiation at all costs. “It is important to limit exposure to head and neck radiation. For most people, the only exposure to radiation will be dental X-rays.” While this exposure is generally very limited, request a neck shield in addition to the chest shield that is usually provided.
NOTHING?!?!?!!? About Fukushima????