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Thyroid cancer on the rise

Thyroid cancer in England has doubled in prevalence since the early 1990s.

According to data published by the National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN), 1,950 people were diagnosed with thyroid cancer each year between 2006-10.

This is a rise from around 900 people each year during 1990 and 1994.

Better diagnosis techniques such as ultrasound and fine needle biopsies that can pick up much smaller cancers have been linked to the increase in thyroid caner diagnoses.

However, despite the increase in numbers, survival rates of the disease have remained at around 90%.

David Chadwick, consultant endocrine surgeon at Chesterfield Royal Hospital and chair of the NCIN Thyroid Working Group, said: “The exact reason behind this steep rise in thyroid cancer cases remains unclear.

“We now have more sensitive diagnostic techniques so it could be that more cancers are being picked up when patients are being tested for other conditions. And, this could mean that we're detecting and treating some cancers that would otherwise not have shown up during a person's life.”

Chadwick also said there may also be 'real' increase in the incidence of thyroid cancer, some of which may be due to improved long-term survival of other cancers previously treated with radiotherapy to the neck or chest.

NCIN data showed thyroid cancer is three times more common in women than in men.

One-year survival rates for the disease had increased for both men and women by 9% for men to 88.3% and by 15% for women to 94.3%.

Chris Carrigan, head of the NCIN, said: “This increase in the number of people being diagnosed with thyroid cancer reflects a trend that we're seeing in other countries. While thyroid cancer is generally a very treatable disease, there is a lot we don't understand about it. We need to better understand the different forms of the disease so that doctors can predict which patients need more aggressive treatment and which don't.”