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Thyroid. 2001 May;11(5):483-6.

Iodine and cancer.

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Department of Medical Endocrinology, National University Hospital, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen University, Denmark.


Thyroid carcinomas are the most frequent endocrine malignancies. Among thyroid carcinomas the most frequent types are the differentiated forms (follicular, papillary or mixed papillary-follicular), whereas anaplastic thyroid carcinoma and medullary thyroid carcinomas are rare. Animal experiments have demonstrated a clear increase in incidence of thyroid epithelial cell carcinomas after prolonged iodine deficiency leading to a situation of the thyroid gland by thyrotropin and possibly other growth factors. However, the overall incidence of differentiated thyroid carcinoma is generally not considered to be influenced by the iodine intake of a population, whereas the distribution of the types of thyroid carcinoma seems to be related to the intake of iodine, with fewer of the more aggressive follicular and anaplastic carcinomas and more papillary carcinomas in iodine rich areas. Populations starting iodine prophylaxis demonstrate an increase in the ratio of papillary to follicular carcinoma. Because a population with higher iodine intake usually has fewer benign nodules in the thyroid gland and the incidence of thyroid carcinomas is similar to an iodine-deficient region, the diagnostic work-up of nodules in the thyroid gland may become affected. The incidence of other cancers, such as breast cancer, may be influenced by the iodine intake, but too few studies are available at present. The present article summarizes available data from both epidemiological studies, animal experiments, and basic gene transfection studies. The overall incidence for a relationship between iodine and cancer is poor and future studies are warranted.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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