What causes follicular thyroid carcinoma (FTC)?

Updated: Jun 18, 2020
  • Author: Luigi Santacroce, MD; Chief Editor: Neetu Radhakrishnan, MD  more...
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The thyroid is particularly sensitive to the effects of ionizing radiation. Exposure to ionizing radiation results in a 30% risk for thyroid cancer.

A history of exposure of the head and neck to x-ray beams, especially during childhood, has been recognized as an important contributing factor to the development of thyroid cancer.

Seven percent of the individuals exposed to the atomic bomb blasts in Japan developed thyroid cancers. However, exposure to fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear accident was asssociated with increases in papillary rather than follicular thyroid carcinoma. [7, 8]

From the 1920s to the 1960s, irradiation was used to treat tumors and benign conditions, such as acne; excessive facial hair; tuberculosis in the neck; fungal diseases of the scalp; sore throats; chronic coughs; and enlargement of the thymus, tonsils, and adenoids. About 10% of individuals who were treated with irradiation developed thyroid cancer after a latency period of 30 years.

Patients who receive radiotherapy for certain types of cancer of the head and neck area also may have an increased risk of developing thyroid cancer.

Exposure to diagnostic x-rays does not increase the risk of developing thyroid cancer.

Although follicular cancer is frequently present in goitrous thyroids, the relationship between prolonged elevation of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and follicular carcinoma is not known. Several reports have shown a relationship between iodine deficiency and the incidence of thyroid carcinoma, and rates of FTC decreased in geographic areas of endemic goiter after iodized salt was introduced.

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