We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Are the Causes of Thyroid Cancer?

By S. Ashraf
Updated Jan 27, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

The thyroid gland is part of the endocrine system, and its function is to produce hormones that help regulate the body’s metabolism. In the thyroid, healthy cells normally grow, divide and then cease to divide in a systematic way. Cancer of the thyroid has its start when cells lose their ability to stop reproducing then die as they normally would but, instead, keep dividing and multiplying when they are no longer needed, eventually forming a tumor. As of early 2011, medical researchers had not established precise causes of thyroid cancer. Genes are recognized as playing a central role as one of the causes of thyroid cancer, but independent risk factors such as radiation, age and sex have also been found to be associated with the development of thyroid cancer, so the relative importance of genes versus risk factors as causes of thyroid cancer has remained unclear to scientists.

There are four major types of thyroid cancer: papillary, follicular, anaplastic and medullary. Papillary and follicular are by far the most common types of thyroid cancer. In the case of these forms, medical researchers have been able to establish that gene mutations are present in a significant percentage of these cancers. For both the anaplastic and medullary forms of thyroid cancer, a genetic connection also has been established, but in a lower percentage of cases.

In addition to genetics, medical researchers have identified several independent risk factors as causes of thyroid cancer. The most common risk factors among the causes of thyroid cancer are exposure to radiation, family history and lack of iodine. Gender, age and race are also known risk factors.

Exposure to high levels of radiation is a proven risk factor for thyroid cancer. Radiation treatments to the head and neck for medical reasons are one source of individuals receiving high doses of radiation. Fallout from the testing and use of nuclear weapons is another. Finally, nuclear power plant accidents also might cause exposure to radiation. Exposure to radiation as a child carries more risk than exposure during adulthood.

A family history of goiter, which is a benign enlargement of the thyroid gland, is a risk factor for thyroid cancer. Certain inherited conditions, such as Cowden disease, also increase the risk. Some forms of thyroid cancer run in families because of defective genes that are inherited. Diets that are too low in iodine are risk factors for papillary and follicular thyroid cancer. Lastly, women are more likely to develop thyroid cancer, as are people who are more than 40 years old and, in the United States, those who are Caucasian.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.