Thyroid Cancer Statistics

When it comes to thyroid cancer facts and statistics, the numbers show promise, cause for concern and avenues for further research.

Thyroid cancer is one of the most survivable types of cancer. In fact, close to 97 percent of those diagnosed with the more common types of thyroid cancer survive for at least five years after their initial diagnosis.

The Prevalence of Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer is relatively rare, accounting for about 1 percent of all cancers. It is the eighth most common type of cancer in women.

According to the National Cancer Institute, in 2006, 410,404 Americans were living after a diagnosis of thyroid cancer, which included people both with active disease and those who were considered cured.

Although thyroid cancer accounts for only 1.2 percent of all new cancers in the United States, cases of thyroid cancer are increasing in frequency, and experts aren’t sure why.

The Increase in Thyroid Cancer Cases

From 1997 to 2010, thyroid cancer cases grew at a rate of about 6 percent per year. Many experts suggest that this increase in thyroid cancer cases is due to improved and earlier diagnosis.

However, a 2009 study published in the journal Cancer reviewed cancer statistics from 1988 to 2005 and found an increase in thyroid tumors of all sizes, not just the smaller tumors one would expect improved diagnostics to reveal. Researchers suggest exploring environmental, dietary and genetic reasons for this increase.

Who Gets Thyroid Cancer?

Although thyroid cancer affects people of all ages, curiously, it is more common in young adults than in seniors. Patients aged 20-55 make up nearly two-thirds of those diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

In another of the unexplained stats on cancer of the thyroid, this disease affects women two to three times more often than men. This suggests that hormones affect the development of the disease, presenting researchers new ways to study the origins of thyroid cancer.

Statistics on Cancer Recurrence

Although the long-term survival rates for people with thyroid cancer are quite good, the chances of recurrence are also rather high — ranging from 20 to 35 percent. Because these recurrences can take place even 10 years or more after the original diagnosis, it’s vitally important for thyroid cancer patients to work with their health care providers to determine safe and effective follow-up tests and treatment.


American Cancer Society staff. (2009). Detailed guide: What are the key statistics about thyroid cancer? Retrieved March 1, 2010, from the ACS Web site: X_What_are_the_key_statistics_for_thyroid_cancer_43.asp?rnav=cri.

Gardner, A. (2010). Increase in thyroid cancer puzzles experts. Retrieved March 2,2010 from the MedicineNet Web site:

Mazzaferri, E., MD. (2010). Early detection of recurrent disease. Retrieved March 2,2010 from the Thyroid Community Web site:

National Cancer Institute Staff. (2009). SEER state fact sheets. Retrieved March 2, 2010, from the National Cancer Institute Web Site: