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Thyroid Cancer Diagnosis Has Created an Artificial Epidemic

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Doctors around the world are overdiagnosing the most common thyroid cancer, creating an artificial epidemic that costs billions of dollars each year in unnecessary medical costs. Global diagnoses of differentiated thyroid cancer have increased threefold during the past 25 years yet there has been no change to the disease’s low death rate.

A/Prof Suhail Doi of The Australian National University’s Research School of Population Health analysed international autopsy data from regions that had high and low instances of differentiated thyroid cancer over six decades from the 1960s. He found that incidental differentiated thyroid cancer has remained unchanged, confirming for the first time that the epidemic has been driven by increasing detections of cancer.

“Overly meticulous examinations are detecting the condition in the early stages and resulting in unnecessary surgeries,” Doi said. “Active monitoring rather than intervention is appropriate in many cases, similar to how doctors treat prostate cancer today.”

Differentiated thyroid cancer mainly involves papillary and follicular tumours that don’t usually progress to clinical forms of cancer. Around 2500 new cases of differentiated thyroid cancer are diagnosed in Australia each year.

Thyroid cancer surgery has substantial consequences for patients. Most patients must receive lifelong thyroid-...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.