Cancer Causes & Control

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 75–86 | Cite as

Risk factors for thyroid cancer: an epidemiological review focused on nutritional factors

  • Luigino Dal MasoEmail author
  • Cristina Bosetti
  • Carlo La Vecchia
  • Silvia Franceschi
Original Paper



The present review summarizes epidemiological evidence on risk factors for thyroid cancer (TC), in particular, nutritional factors.


Searches of articles on the issue were conducted using MEDLINE.


Exposure to ionizing radiation, particularly during childhood, is the best-established risk factor for TC. There is also a strong association with history of benign nodules/adenoma or goiter. Iodine deficiency may induce an increasing incidence of benign thyroid conditions, but very high iodine intake also affects thyroid function and, possibly, TC risk. Among dietary factors, fish—the major natural source of iodine in human diet—is not consistently related to TC risk. High intake of cruciferous vegetables shows a weak inverse association with TC. Among other food groups, vegetables other than cruciferous are the only food group showing a favorable effect on TC, with an approximate 20% reduction in risk for subjects with the highest consumption. No effect on TC risk of alcohol, coffee, or other food-groups/nutrients emerged. Height and weight at diagnosis show a moderate positive association with TC risk.


At present, the only recognized measures for reducing TC risk is to avoid ionizing radiation and iodine deficiency, particularly in childhood and young women, and to increase vegetable consumption.


Thyroid cancer Nutrition Diet Epidemiology Overweight Risk factors 



The author wishes to thank Dr C. Braga for her helpful comments and Mrs L. Mei for editorial assistance.

Financial support

This work was conducted with the contribution of the Italian Association for Cancer Research. The work of this paper was undertaken while CLV was a Senior Fellow at the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Conflicts of interests

None declared.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Luigino Dal Maso
    • 1
    Email author
  • Cristina Bosetti
    • 2
  • Carlo La Vecchia
    • 2
    • 3
  • Silvia Franceschi
    • 4
  1. 1.Unità di Epidemiologia e BiostatisticaCentro di Riferimento OncologicoAviano (PN)Italy
  2. 2.Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche “Mario Negri”MilanItaly
  3. 3.Istituto di Statistica Medica e Biometria “G. A. Maccacaro”, Università degli Studi di MilanoMilanItaly
  4. 4.International Agency for Research on CancerLyon CedexFrance

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