benessere via Flickr

benessere via Flickr

It is an established fact that our risk for cancer increases as we age. We all are going to die of something, right?

One type of cancer seems to be bucking that trend in that it is affecting the young more than the elderly. I am talking about thyroid cancer. Thyroid cancer is increasing in the general population but a bulk of the new diagnosis is in younger women; women less than 40. That was the cancer diagnosis Dancing with the Stars former Co-host; Brooke Burke received a little while back.

I bet you are asking why this is happening. The medical community is scratching it’s head on this one but we have two big hunches;

1. Increase use of thyroid ultrasound. The thyroid ultrasound picks up tiny nodules in the thyroid before they get big enough to be felt on physical examination.

2. Increase use of CAT Scans and other radioactive cool tools we use in modern medical care. The hormonal organs like the thyroid, ovaries (testicles in the case of men) are extremely sensitive to radiation exposure.

Even if you are not the one getting these tests if you are in close contact with people who do, the residue they carry around has the potential to latch on to the glands of the people around them.

The worst offenders are CAT scans of the chest, CAT scans of the abdomen and pelvis (belly), Lumbar sacral spine x-rays (low back x-rays).

Besides becoming a hermit (not practical in modern times), here are some more practical ways to lower your risk for getting diagnosed with thyroid cancer

1. Stop demanding a CAT scan for every stubbed toe. Limit your radiation exposure.

2. Run the other way when the “full body scan” bus pulls into your neighborhood. Those full body scans come with a hefty dose of radiation.

3. Ask about shielding your neck and pelvic area if you have to take scans or x-rays that don’t involve these body parts.

4. See a doctor ASAP if you notice a lump in your neck or experience difficulty swallowing. Your thyroid would be evaluated as part of the work up for a neck lump.

Thankfully, thyroid cancer is one of the LEAST deadliest of the cancers and it has really good survival rates.

While we are on the topic of cancers of young women; you might be increasing your risk of developing ovarian cancer by engaging in this “harmless habit” we girls all grew up doing.

The Harmless Habit Putting You at Risk for Ovarian Cancer is only available to logged in Healthgist members.

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About the author

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Dr. Bola

Family physician. Works for the "man" by day, wife & mom 24/7.
Loves the work of translating "medicalese" to plain english.


  • this is BY FAR my favorite health blog. I love your questions and your integrative, common sense approach to health. Thank you for embarking on this journey so all of us can benefit from your knowledge and expertise!

    • You just made my day Michelle!
      Carol and I just love bringing the exam room online don’t we? I am glad you find us useful.

  • How timely. I just had an ultrasound today to check out a nodule on my thyroid picked up by my doc in a routine physical. My doc said many people have them and don’t have problems, so hoping it is nothing, but this article came right in time to make me nervous. Interesting though!

    • Oh no Susan! I don’t want you to be nervous. Looks like you are getting excellent care from your doctor. If the nodule is big enough, they might want to take a biopsy otherwise they would probably have you repeat the ultrasound in 6 months to check for increase in the size of the nodule.

      Like your doctor alluded to, most thyroid nodules are not cancer. On the unfortunate instance that it turns out to be cancer, just know that thyroid cancer have a VERY high cure and survival rate.

  • Very interesting! I never would have guessed it was Thyroid Cancer, but I’m glad I know about it now. I’ll definitely be sharing to spread the word. Thanks for an informative post! #typeaparent

  • I was just talking with a man who had thyroid cancer. He told me about the surgery and medications that he had to do. Cancer is certainly a scary thing and nothing to take lightly. Thanks for sharing this info, especially the tips.

  • Don’t forget about high levels of soy in modern diets. It’s a known thyroid disrupt or, and contains high levels of hormones. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that it is causing an uptick in cancer rates of the thyroid. My wife developed a severe soy allergy over the last 15 years, and in an interesting coincidence (?), developed thyroid issues as well.

    • How trends change Tom? Soy used to be the super food of the 80s. I have a feeling that 5-10 years out, we would be calling out gluten-free diets, kale and quinoa.

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