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The link between Obesity and thyroid cancer

by Dr. Abhishek Pareek (Senior Consultant- Surgical Oncology, HCG Cancer Centre Jaipur)
Apr 22, 2022
The link between Obesity and thyroid cancer, Article, KonexioNetwork.com

Our fast-paced lifestyles have little time for healthy, wholesome meals. Instead, most people now rely on processed and unhealthy foods. Moreover, our sedentary lifestyles leave little room for exercise to work out the fat that builds up gradually due to poor dietary habits.

Combined, these two factors are the major reasons behind the increase in obesity rates in India. Currently, there is widespread worry about the problems that accompany obesity. Furthermore, obesity has been linked to an increased risk of a variety of cancers, one of them being thyroid cancer.

What is Thyroid Cancer?

Thyroid cancer is a type of solid tumor cancer that typically appears as a nodule or mass in the thyroid gland, which is located at the front base of the throat. The tumor occurs when rogue cells reproduce at a rate that the immune system is unable to manage. It affects three times more women than men and is most common after the age of 30, however it can develop at any age. In elderly people, thyroid cancer is more likely to be aggressive.

Types of Thyroid Cancer

There are four main types of thyroid cancers, which differ in their aggressiveness and other factors, namely:
  • Papillary Thyroid Cancer- This is by far the most frequent type of thyroid cancer, accounting for 80%-85% of all cases. It spreads slowly but frequently to the lymph nodes in your neck.
  • Follicular thyroid cancer- It is more aggressive than papillary thyroid cancer and has the potential to spread to other parts of the body via blood circulation. Hurthle cell cancer is a particularly aggressive variant of follicular thyroid cancer.
  • Medullary thyroid cancer- Medullary thyroid cancer is more likely to be discovered early because it generates calcitonin, a hormone that doctors look for in blood test results.
  • Anaplastic thyroid cancer- Because it spreads aggressively to other regions of the body, it can be the most severe kind. It's uncommon, yet it is the most difficult to treat.

Thyroid cancer usually has no symptoms. When thyroid cancer does cause symptoms, the most common is swelling of the neck. Swollen thyroid nodules can cause additional problems, like:

  • Problem in swallowing
  • Breathing problem
  • Discomfort and pain when moving the head and neck
  • Persistent cough
  • Changes in the voice

Pain is very uncommon in thyroid cancer, except in some cases of medullary thyroid cancer.


There are a number of known potential risk factors that can increase the odds of getting thyroid cancer. Obesity is significantly linked to thyroid cancer. People who are overweight have a higher chance of acquiring thyroid cancer than those who are not, and the risk appears to grow as body mass index (BMI) increases. According to a study, in the case of heavier patients, the cancer is frequently detected when it is at a more advanced stage with more aggressive malignancies.

Other factors like being a female, having a family history of thyroid cancer or thyroid disease, having certain genetic mutations, and exposure to radiation are causes of thyroid cancer. Certain environmental exposures to pesticides and flame retardants are also linked to thyroid cancer.


Thyroid cancer treatment varies depending on the type and stage of cancer, as well as other factors such as age and general health of the patient. Thyroid cancer is usually curable, even if it is in an advanced stage. Here is a rundown of treatment options you and your doctor might consider:
  • Surgery
  • Thyroid hormone therapy
  • Radioactive iodine
  • External radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy

Having one or more symptoms does not imply that you have thyroid cancer. Many of the above-mentioned symptoms are more likely to be caused by other illnesses. Still, if you experience any of the symptoms you should consult a doctor so that the underlying reasons can be identified and treated at the earliest.