Advanced thyroid cancer cases higher in California

Posted Jan 5, 2016 by Tim Sandle
A new medical study indicates the U.S. state of California has disproportionately more thyroid cancer cases than other parts of the U.S.
Dr Luz Perez-Schwartz monitors anesthesia during surgery.
Dr Luz Perez-Schwartz monitors anesthesia during surgery.
Thyroid cancer is a rare type of cancer that affects the thyroid gland, a small gland at the base of the neck. The first symptom of thyroid cancer is a nodule in the thyroid region of the neck.
By examining thyroid cancer rates between 1999 and 2008, from the California Cancer Registry, which equated to 27,000 people, researchers found California to have far higher rates than the rest of the U.S. The rate of those with thyroid cancer at an advanced stage in the U.S. is 29 percent. In California, the rate ranges from 33 percent (Orange County) to 51 percent (for the combination of Alpine, Amador and Calaveras counties). The state average is 35 percent — six percentage points above the national average.
The finding comes from research conducted at the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. The lead researcher was Dr. Avital Harari.
In the U.S, around 63,000 people are diagnosed with thyroid cancer each year. The level of cases, based on National Cancer Institute statistics, is increasing across both genders and for all ethnic groups. The advanced stage means metastatic, which is when the cancer has spread beyond the thyroid to other tissues.
The reason why the research is important is thyroid cancer is relatively treatable if caught early; however, the chance of treating it effectively ebbs away if diagnosis is made when the cancer is at an advanced stage.
The reason for California having much higher levels is unknown. The research group speculate that the reason may relate to an as yet identified environmental factor. Another possible reason may be social, where people do not seek a medical opinion early enough.
With environmental factors, California has one of the largest areas of farmland. However, a more probable environmental cause is radiation. Exposure to ionizing radiation from both natural background sources and artificial sources has been linked with the cancer. Nevertheless, the state is not known to have higher levels of radiation when compared with other states.
The findings are published in the Journal of Surgical Research. The paper is headed “Increased rates of advanced thyroid cancer in California.”