Are you living in a thyroid cancer hot spot?

During the past 40 years, the incidence of thyroid cancer in the U.S. has tripled. And the statistics concerning this dread illness shows that one state leads the rest in this dangerous development.

Researchers have not been able to pinpoint exactly why Pennsylvania leads the U.S. in the incidence of thyroid cancer. But there’s no doubt that Pennsylvanians are getting this cancer at a frightening rate.

“Since the mid-1970s, the incidence of thyroid cancer in the United States has more than tripled,” says researcher Dr. David Goldenberg, a professor of surgery and medicine at the Penn State College of Medicine. “Thyroid cancer is now the seventh leading type of cancer in the nation. It typically occurs in young women and is projected to become the third most common cancer in women by 2019.”

Most of the thyroid cancer increase is due to increases in what’s called papillary thyroid cancer, which, fortunately, is relatively easy to treat. More than 90 percent of people with this type of thyroid cancer can survive it for at least 30 years.

Papillary thyroid cancer does not produce any symptoms unless it is very advanced. Most people only discover they have this illness when a doctor examines them.

Your chances of thyroid cancer increase if you are exposed to radiation, are of Asian descent, are female or have other family members who have had the cancer. If you get too little or too much iodine in your diet, are overweight or eat lots of junk food, you also increase your risk of thyroid cancer.

“The Three Mile Island nuclear accident in central Pennsylvania released significant amounts of radioactivity,” says Goldenberg. “However several studies indicate that the TMI accident is not likely to be responsible for large increases, in the prevalence of thyroid cancer in Pennsylvania. If obesity is a major risk factor for thyroid cancer, the high rate of obesity in Pennsylvania may partially explain the increased incidence compared to the national data.”

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Carl Lowe

By Carl Lowe

has written about health, fitness and nutrition for a wide range of publications including Prevention Magazine, Self Magazine and Time-Life Books. The author of more than a dozen books, he has been gluten-free since 2007.