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Why thyroid cancer is becoming a male disease

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Obesity is a major cause of thyroid cancer, responsible for up to 40 percent of cases in men and 10 percent in women.

Although being overweight has been recognised as a cause, researchers have recently been able to calculate the risk and how it differs between the sexes.

The figure is far higher than early research had suggested, and it highlights the importance of losing weight and eating a healthier diet, say researchers from the University of New South Wales.  

They discovered that two in five thyroid cancers in men, and one in 10 cases in women, were the direct result of obesity and being overweight, although they were unable to explain the differences between men and women.  

Thyroid cancer is usually two to three times more common in women but rising obesity levels could explain why more men are developing the cancer.  Around 75 percent of men in Australia are overweight or obese, compared to 60 percent of females.  “Our findings add evidence to the urgent need to halt and reverse the current global trend in weight gain, especially obesity and especially in men,” said lead researcher Maarit Laaksonen.

Their research also failed to understand the cause of the majority of the cancers, although ionizing radiation, iodine deficiency and genetic factors are recognised causes that could be responsible.

The researchers had reviewed seven studies that had included more than 370,000 participants whose BMI (body mass index) had been assessed.

(Source: International Journal of Cancer, 2021; doi: 10.1002/ijc.33889)

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Article Topics: Cancer, nutrition, obesity
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