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Thyroid. 2012 Jul;22(7):737-46. doi: 10.1089/thy.2011.0525. Epub 2012 Jun 4.

Five-year change in morphological and functional alterations of the thyroid gland: the Study of Health in Pomerania.

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Institute for Community Medicine, Ernst Moritz Arndt University Greifswald, Greifswald, Germany.



While cross-sectional data on thyroid epidemiology are common, few longitudinal data on the incidence and progression of thyroid disorders exist. The aim of this study was to analyze the 5-year change and the incidence of morphological and functional alterations of the thyroid gland in a previously iodine-deficient area.


We used 5-year follow-up data based on 2941 participants (20-79 years) of the population-based Study of Health in Pomerania. The thyroid structure and size were measured by ultrasonography. Thyroid function and serum autoantibodies to thyroperoxidase (anti-TPO-Ab) were evaluated.


During follow-up, the median iodine/creatinine ratio decreased slightly from 134.2 to 130.4 μg/g. The mean thyroid volume was nonsignificantly increased by 0.73 mL [confidence interval (CI) -1.68-3.41 mL]. The incidence rate of goiter was 34.0 [CI 30.7-37.7] per 1000 person-years (py), the incident rate of nodules was 16.6 [CI 14.5-19.1] per 1000 py. Median serum thyrotropin levels increased slightly (0.10 [CI -0.10-0.34 mIU/L]). The incidence of positive anti-TPO-Ab was 3.4 [CI 2.6-4.7] per 1000 py. For all thyroid parameters, the regression rates were higher than the incidence rates.


After iodine fortification became effective in this previously iodine-deficient region, there is a negative net balance between occurring and reverting goiter and nodules. Along with balanced incidences of hyper- and hypothyroid dysfunction and the low incidence of autoimmune-related findings, these findings indicate that the current iodine status is sufficient to prevent iodine deficiency-related disorders in the adult population of the study region.

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