Thyroid Cancer

What you do, what you eat, and how you handle stress impact your overall state of well-being.

Approximately 1.1 percent of men and women will be diagnosed with differentiated thyroid cancer at some point during their lifetime, based on 2008-2010 SEER data.[1]

In 2011, it’s estimated that there were 566,708 people living with thyroid cancer in the United States and thyroid cancer represents 3.8% of all new cancer cases.

Additionally, recent studies demonstrate that thyroid cancer rates seem to be rising.[2]

The 5 year survival rate from differentiated thyroid cancer is estimated between 97 and 99%, although some less common forms of thyroid cancer have lower survival rates.[3]

Focus on hormone free organic whole foods to decrease exposure to pesticides and hormones.

Causes/Contributing Factors

Among the most well-established risk factors include:

  1. Exposure to ionizing radiation in the head and neck, especially during childhood.[4] Telomere shortening, which can occur as a result of radiation and chemotherapy, appears to be a mechanism underlying the increased risk of thyroid cancer following these treatments.[5]
  2. Hereditary factors increase the risk of developing thyroid cancer. New research is focusing on the genetics and epigenetics of cancer development and thyroid cancer may be linked to having the C677T polymorphism in the MTFHR gene.[6][7] Thyroid cancer occurs more often in some families, and is often seen at an earlier age when they run in families, especially papillary thyroid cancer. Genes on chromosome 19 and chromosome 1 are suspected of causing these familial cancers.

Other risk factors include:

  1. Hormone influences of estrogen. The rate of thyroid cancer increases at puberty in females and only declines after menopause. Estrogen appears to be a growth factor for both benign and malignant thyroid cells.[8]
  2. Obesity is associated with risk of papillary thyroid cancer as well more negative outcomes such as severity of the cancer and metastasizes.[9][10]
  3. Having diabetes in females. Women with diabetes mellitus are at a greater risk for developing thyroid cancer.[11]
  4. Low dietary iodine intake. Follicular thyroid cancers are more common in areas of low iodine.
Many studies suggest physical activity reduces risks of all hormone cancers, including thyroid.

Relevant Diagnostic Testing

Nuclear scan or radioactive iodine uptake (RAI0U) scan. Nodules that absorb more radioactive iodine are known as hot nodules and are more likely benign.

CT scan which is a type of X-ray that can diagnose larger thyroid nodules or goiter.

MRI can locate tumors, assess tumor size and look for tumor spread.

Thyroid ultrasound can detect a thyroid nodule in a fluid filled cyst or if it is a solid filled mass. However a needle biopsy will need to be done to determine the type of tissue found in the nodule.

Needle Biopsy Suspicious thyroid nodules will need to be biopsied. Typically thyroid nodules are biopsied using a needle, in a procedure known as fine needle aspiration biopsy.

Practice mindfulness-based stress reduction, like breathing techniques, yoga, Pilates and meditation.

Dietary Action Plan


  1. Organic fruits and vegetables should be emphasized, as pesticides and bisphenol A may interact with thyroid health
  2. Whole foods (foods that are as close to their natural form as possible)
  3. Low sugar/low glycemic diet (Glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL) are measures of the effect on blood glucose level after a food containing carbohydrates is consumed)
  4. High fiber, from whole grains, beans, vegetables and fruits
  5. Healthy fats, from avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, coconut oil, cold water fish. Frequent adult consumption of saltwater fish decreases the risk of thyroid cancer[12]
  6. For animal protein, choose lean poultry and fish over red meat, and aim to view meat as a condiment rather than a staple. Try to choose grass fed and organic meats and eggs whenever possible. Eat no fish larger than a salmon to minimize environmental contaminants, including mercury.


  1. Avoid foods that contain substances called goitrogens, as found in turnips, cabbages, rutabagas, mustard greens, soybeans, radishes, peanuts, pine nuts and millet. Goitrogens have known effects on thyroid functioning.
  2. Fast foods, fried foods, baked goods and packaged, processed foods
  3. Sugar, sweeteners  and artificial sweeteners
  4. Vegetable oils, shortening, margarine and anything with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils
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Thyroid Cancer Supplement Program

Multiple nutritional supplements have been associated with reduced cancer incidence and/or cancer progression. The list below contains those with the greatest evidence-base and benefit, though it is not necessary that they all be included.

Supplement Info



  • Vitamin D3:
  • Selenium:
  • DIM
  • Green Tea Extract
  • Curcumin
  • Milk Thistle
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[2] Davies L, Welch HG. Current thyroid cancer trends in the United States. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2014 Apr;140(4):317-22.

[2] Horn-Ross PL, Lichtensztajn DY, Clarke CA, Dosiou C, Oakley-Girvan I, Reynolds P, Gomez SL, Nelson DO. Continued rapid increase in thyroid cancer incidence in california: trends by patient, tumor, and neighborhood characteristics. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2014 Jun;23(6):1067-79.

[3] Davies L, Welch HG. Thyroid cancer survival in the United States: observational data from 1973 to 2005. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2010 May;136(5):440-4.

[4] Sadetzki S, Chetrit A, Lubina A, Stovall M, Novikov I. Risk of thyroid cancer  after childhood exposure to ionizing radiation for tinea capitis. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2006 Dec;91(12):4798-804. Epub 2006 Oct 3.

[5] Gramatges MM, Liu Q, Yasui Y, Okcu MF, Neglia JP, Strong LC, Armstrong GT, Robison LL, Bhatia S. Telomere content and risk of second malignant neoplasm in survivors of childhood cancer: a report from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. Clin Cancer Res. 2014 Feb 15;20(4):904-11.

[6] Yang YM, Zhang TT, Yuan L, Ren Y. The association between the C677T polymorphism in MTHFR gene and the risk of thyroid cancer: a meta-analysis. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2014 Aug;18(15):2097-101.

[7] Brehar AC, Brehar FM, Bulgar AC, Dumitrache C. Genetic and epigenetic alterations in differentiated thyroid carcinoma. J Med Life. 2013 Dec 15;6(4):403-8. Epub 2013 Dec 25.

[8] Derwahl M, Nicula D. Estrogen and its role on thyroid cancer. Endocr Relat Cancer. 2014 Jul 22. pii: ERC-14-0053.

[9] Kim SH, Park HS, Kim KH, Yoo H, Chae BJ, Bae JS, Jung SS, Song BJ. Correlation between obesity and clinicopathological factors in patients with papillary thyroid cancer. Surg Today. 2014 Jul 25.

[10] Xu L, Port M, Landi S, Gemignani F, Cipollini M, Elisei R, Goudeva L, Müller JA, Nerlich K, Pellegrini G, Reiners C, Romei C, Schwab R, Abend M, Sturgis EM. Obesity and the risk of papillary thyroid cancer: a pooled analysis of three case-control studies. Thyroid. 2014 Jun;24(6):966-74.

[11] Yeo Y, Ma SH, Hwang Y, Horn-Ross PL, Hsing A, Lee KE, Park YJ, Park DJ, Yoo KY, Park SK. Diabetes mellitus and risk of thyroid cancer: a meta-analysis. PLoS  One. 2014 Jun 13;9(6):e98135.

[12] Mack WJ, Preston-Martin S, Bernstein L, Qian D. Lifestyle and other risk factors for thyroid cancer in Los Angeles County females. Ann Epidemiol. 2002 Aug;12(6):395-401.

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