Thyroid cancer “epidemic” also occurs in low- and middle-income countries

Joannie Lortet-Tieulent, Silvia Franceschi, Luigino Dal Maso, Salvatore Vaccarella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Thyroid cancer incidence varies greatly between and within high-income countries (HICs), and overdiagnosis likely plays a major role in these differences. Yet, little is known about the situation in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). We compare up-to-date thyroid cancer incidence and mortality at national and subnational levels. 599,851 thyroid cancer cases in subjects aged 20–74 reported in Cancer Incidence in Five Continents volume XI from 55 countries with at least 0.5 million population, aged 20–74 years, covered by population-based cancer registration, and 22,179 deaths from the WHO Mortality Database for 36 of the selected countries, over 2008–2012, were included. Age-standardized rates were computed. National incidence rates varied 50-fold. Rates were 4 times higher among women than men, with similar patterns between countries. The highest rates (>25 cases per 100,000 women) were observed in the Republic of Korea, Israel, Canada, the United States, Italy, France, and LMICs such as Turkey, Costa Rica, Brazil, and Ecuador. Incidence rates were low (<8) in a few HICs (the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Denmark) and lowest (3–4) in some LMICs (such as Uganda and India). Within-country incidence rates varied up to 45-fold, with the largest differences recorded between rural and urban areas in Canada (HIC) and Brazil, India, and China (LMICs). National mortality rates were very low (<2) in all countries and in both sexes, and highest in LMICs. The very high thyroid cancer incidence and low mortality rates in some LMICs also strongly suggest a major role of overdiagnosis in these countries.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018


  • epidemiology
  • incidence
  • medical overuse
  • mortality
  • thyroid neoplasm

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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