Newswise — WASHINGTON—Male thyroid cancer survivors have a nearly 50 percent higher risk of developing heart disease than women within five years of cancer diagnosis, according to a new study published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Thyroid cancer occurs when cancerous tumors or nodules grow in the thyroid, the butterfly-shaped gland at the front of the neck. It is the fastest growing cancer in the United States, in both men and women, with more than 62,000 new cases diagnosed every year. Thyroid cancer is often diagnosed in young people and has a five-year survival rate of 98 percent. These survivors need to be aware of how their cancer treatment impacts their long-term health.

“Thyroid cancer survivors are at high risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD),” said one of the study's main authors, Mia Hashibe, Ph.D., of Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah. "Our study found that male thyroid cancer survivors have an almost 50 percent higher risk of developing CVD than women, while thyroid cancer survivors with obesity have a 41 percent higher risk.”

In the cohort study, researchers studied the medical records of nearly 4,000 thyroid cancer survivors over a 15-year period using the statewide Utah Population Database. The researchers examined potential risk factors, treatment effects, and CVD outcomes in this population. Factors like sex, baseline weight, and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) therapy were associated with higher CVD risk within five years of cancer diagnosis.

The study found male thyroid cancer survivors face a nearly 50 percent higher risk of developing CVD than women. Thyroid cancer survivors who have obesity have a 41 percent higher risk, and individuals whose TSH levels were suppressed as part of their cancer treatment have a 25 percent higher risk of developing CVD.

"Our findings suggest that thyroid cancer survivors should be continuously monitored and screened for CVD for both earlier detection and better preventative care," Hashibe said.

Other authors of the study include: Jihye Park, Brenna Blackburn, Anne Kirchhoff, Dev Abraham and Marcus Monroe of Huntsman Cancer Institute and Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City, Utah; Patricia Ganz of UCLA in Los Angeles, Calif.; Kerry Rowe and John Snyder of Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City; Yuan Wan, Alison Fraser and Ken Smith of Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City; Vikrant Deshmukh, Kim Herget and Jaewhan Kim of University of Utah in Salt Lake City; and Michael Newman of Huntsman Cancer Institute and University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

The study was supported by research grants from the National Institutes of Health, the Huntsman Cancer Institute and the National Center for Research Resources, with additional support from the Utah State Department of Health and the University of Utah.

The study, Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease among Thyroid Cancer Survivors: Findings from the Utah Cancer Survivors Study,” will be published online, ahead of print.

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Journal Link: Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism