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Secondary Thyroid Cancer More Dangerous than Primary, Study Reports

Update Date: Feb 24, 2014 02:07 PM EST
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When people develop cancer, sometimes the tumor cells spread and cause cancers in more than one organ. In a new study, researchers examined the effects of secondary thyroid cancer, which manifests after cancer is already detected somewhere else in the body. They found that for young adult patients, secondary thyroid cancer could be more dangerous and lethal than primary thyroid cancers.

Thyroid cancer is one of the five most common types of cancer for adolescents and young adults between the ages of 15 and 39. For this study, the researchers headed by Melanie Goldfarb, MD, and David Freyer, DO, of the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California and Children's Hospital Los Angeles set out to compare primary and secondary thyroid cancer. They examined specific cancer characteristics, treatment approach and survival rates in 41, 062 cases taken from the 1998-2010 American College of Surgeons National Cancer Database. Out of the total sample set, 1,349 or 3.3 percent had developed thyroid cancer after being treated for a previous malignancy.

Based from their analyses, the researchers concluded that secondary thyroid cancers were more likely to be small, but tended to develop in more than one location. People diagnosed with secondary thyroid cancers were 6.6 times more likely to die in comparison to patients with primary thyroid cancer. However, for both cancers, the survival rate with treatment was higher than 95 percent.

The researchers concluded that even though the survival rates were high for both primary and secondary thyroid cancers, knowing that the latter is more fatal could help doctors better assess and treat those cases.

"This study will hopefully spur future research that will investigate if there are any causes-biologic, environmental, prior treatment-related, or access to care disparities-to account for the survival differences in these secondary cancers," added Goldfarb according to the press release.

The study, "Comparison of secondary and primary thyroid cancer in adolescents and young adults," was published in Cancer.

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