Does Hashimoto’s Increase Your Risk Of Thyroid Cancer?

Does Hashimoto’s Increase Your Risk Of Thyroid Cancer?

Hashimoto’s disease (HD), also known as chronic thyroiditis, is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the United States. This condition, an autoimmune disease that causes your immune system to mistakenly attack, and destroy, your thyroid, is linked with numerous health complications ranging from heart disease and depression to birth defects and infertility — but the link to cancer is hotly debated.
In the latest study, researchers found nearly 2 percent of those with HD tested positive for papillary thyroid cancer, compared to just under 1 percent of those with Grave’s disease (the most common cause of hyperthyroidism). Given the findings, researchers suggested:
“We recommend performing US [thyroid ultrasonography] at the time of the initial visit in patients with autoimmune thyroid disease, who have a high prevalence of thyroid papillary carcinoma, to detect malignant thyroid tumors.”
Past research has also found a heightened risk, including:
  • A study in the Journal of Surgical Research, which found female patients with HD undergoing thyroidectomy were 30 percent more likely to have papillary thyroid cancer.
  • A study in Thyroid, which found “… cancer is common in patients who have a thyroidectomy for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis even when not suspected preoperatively.”
What does this mean for you if you currently have Hashimoto’s?
It’s simply a risk factor to be aware of, and one that you may want to keep a close eye on in partnership with your health care practitioner. It’s not a reason to panic. As Jerome Hershman, MD wrote in Clinical Thyroidology:
“Despite this long-standing controversy concerning whether Hashimoto’s thyroiditis predisposes to thyroid neoplasia [tumor formation], I generally tell my patients that Hashimoto’s disease does not predispose to thyroid cancer (aside from the rare lymphoma), but that distinct nodules found on ultrasound have to be evaluated in a conventional manner.”
In the United States, about 4 percent of the population has hypothyroidism, and another 13 million have the condition but have not been diagnosed. Many of these people have Hashimoto’s as well, but may not be aware of it yet because conventional lab tests to diagnose the disease can be misleading, labeling thyroid hormones as within the normal range when a problem still exists.
If your health care practitioner is not experienced with the complexities of thyroid conditions, there is an even higher likelihood that the diagnosis could be missed entirely, especially considering that the symptoms often mimic those of other diseases.
Further, many health care practitioners will advise not treating Hashimoto’s disease in its early stages, but this may be a crucial time to stop the disease before it progresses. By working with a knowledgeable health care practitioner who is experienced with thyroid problems, you can often stop Hashimoto’s disease and its associated low-thyroid symptoms before serious or permanent damage occurs.

About Dr. Joseph Alaimo
Hi, I'm Dr. Joe Alaimo. I've been practicing in Wilmington, NC , since 1995. My primary practice focus is on chronic pain and metabolic conditions.

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