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Incidence of diagnosed thyroid cancer may be leveling off

In a study published online by JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, Luc G. T. Morris, M.D., M.Sc., of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, and colleagues analyzed the incidence of thyroid cancer in the U.S. from 1983 to 2012. The incidence of thyroid cancer has risen rapidly since the 1990s. This increase, chiefly comprising small papillary cancers, has been attributed to widespread diagnosis of subclinical disease.

The researchers found that from 1988 to 1998, the incidence of thyroid cancer had an annual percentage increase of 3 percent. The trend accelerated to 6.7 percent from 1998 to 2009 and then stabilized from 2010 to 2012 at 1.75 percent. The stabilization in incidence rates from 2010 to 2012 remained when tumors were stratified by size and was most pronounced for tumors of subcentimeter size.

“The rapidly rising incidence of thyroid cancer in the United States has been recognized as an ‘epidemic of diagnosis’ more than an epidemic of disease. Acknowledging this, practice guidelines are becoming increasingly nuanced in recommendations about which nodules to biopsy. The data reported here suggest that clinical practices are also changing, as reflected by the beginning of stabilization of the previously rapidly rising incidence of thyroid cancer in the United States,” the authors write.