Are Thyroid Cancer Survivors at Increased Risk for Aging-Related Diseases?

Key Points

  • Although both age groups had a significantly increased risk for aging-related diseases, thyroid cancer survivors diagnosed before the age of 40 had higher risks than those diagnosed after the age of 40.
  • Younger thyroid cancer survivors were more likely to have a higher risk for hypertension, cardiomyopathy, and nutritional deficiencies than older thyroid cancer survivors.

A study by Blackburn et al investigating the risks of aging-related diseases such as heart disease and diabetes among thyroid cancer survivors has found that although younger and older survivors had an increased risk for these diseases, those younger than age 40 had a higher risk for hypertension, cardiomyopathy, and nutritional deficiencies than older survivors. Future studies are needed to assess how to reduce the increased risks of these long-term health effects. The study was published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Study Methodology

The researchers analyzed data from the Utah Population Database of thyroid cancer cases diagnosed between 1997 and 2012. A general population cohort of up to five cancer-free individuals was matched to each patient with thyroid cancer at the time of diagnosis by birth year, sex, and birth state. Medical records were used to identify disease diagnoses stratified over three time periods: 1 to 5 years, 5 to 10 years, and over 10 years after a cancer diagnosis.

Cox proportional hazards models were used to estimate hazard ratios, with adjustment on matching factors, race, body mass index, and Charlson Comorbidity Index.

Study Findings

There were 3,706 thyroid cancer survivors and 15,587 matched cancer-free individuals (1,365 cases diagnosed < 40 years old). The researchers found that both age groups had increased risks for multiple circulatory health conditions 1 to 5 years after their cancer diagnosis compared with cancer-free individuals. Cancer survivors < age 40 had a higher risk of hypertension, cardiomyopathy, and nutritional deficiencies.

Overall, all thyroid cancer survivors had a significantly increased risk for hypertension and diabetes at all time points after diagnosis compared with age-matched, cancer-free individuals. For many diseases, including diabetes, cardiomyopathy, osteoporosis, and nutritional deficiencies, the increase in risk was higher among those diagnosed before age 40. Survivors diagnosed before age 40 had a nearly eightfold increased risk of osteoporosis 1 to 5 years after diagnosis compared with age-matched, cancer-free individuals, whereas survivors diagnosed at older ages had a twofold increased risk of osteoporosis compared with age-matched, cancer-free individuals.

“Increased risks for diseases associated with aging were observed for both age groups, with younger thyroid cancer survivors having higher risks for select diseases. As thyroid cancer survivors in this study were found to have increased risks for aging-related diseases, future studies are needed to assess what can be done to reduce the increased risks of these long-term health effects,” concluded the study authors.

Mia Hashibe, PhD, of Huntsman Cancer Institute, University of Utah School of Medicine, is the corresponding author of this study.

Funding for this study was provided by the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute, the Huntsman Cancer Foundation, the Utah State Department of Health, and the University of Utah.

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.


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