Fathoming the link between anthropogenic chemical contamination and thyroid cancer

Vincenzo Marotta, Pasqualino Malandrino, Marco Russo, Ilaria Panariello, Franco Ionna, Maria Grazia Chiofalo, Luciano Pezzullo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Incidence and mortality of thyroid cancer are increasing, thus making mandatory to improve the knowledge of disease etiology. The hypothesis of a role for anthropogenic chemicals is raising wide consideration. A series of occupational studies revealed that job exposures with high risk of chemical contamination were usually more prone to thyroid cancer development. These include shoe manufacture, preserving industry, building activities, pulp/papermaker industry and the wood processing, agricultural activities, and other work categories characterized by contact with chemicals, such as chemists and pharmacists. However, such epidemiological analyses cannot define a causal relationship. Thyroid-disrupting activity has emerged for a broad set of anthropogenic chemicals, with the best evidence being gained for polychlorinated biphenyls, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, dioxins, bisphenols, phthalates, pesticides, and heavy metals. A series of case-control studies, assessing exposure to thyroid-disrupting agents, as measured on biological matrices, have been recently performed providing the following insights: a) positive relationship with thyroid cancer was found for phthalates, bisphenols, the heavy metals cadmium, copper, and lead; b) polybrominated diphenyl ethers exposure showed no relationship with thyroid cancer c) controversial results were reported for polychlorinated biphenyls and pesticides. However, such studies cannot demonstrate the causal link with disease occurrence, as exposure is assessed after tumour development. Studies with different methodological approach are therefore required for defining the role of anthropogenic environmental chemicals in thyroid carcinogenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102950
JournalCritical Reviews in Oncology/Hematology
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • Endocrine disruptors chemicals
  • Environment
  • Pollutants
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Thyroid diseases
  • Thyroid nodules

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Oncology


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