Precisely what causes thyroid cancer remains unclear. However, the condition has been linked to a few inherited traits, leading researchers to believe that family history can sometimes play a role. Exposure to radiation, particularly during childhood, is also thought to influence a person’s risk of developing thyroid cancer.
Thyroid cells can become cancerous after certain changes occur in their DNA, a chemical that carries genetic information that controls how the cells function. This includes important instructions on when the cells should grow, divide and die. When that genetic information is faulty, thyroid cells can multiply too fast or live longer than they should. As a result, excess cells can accumulate and form a mass or tumor, which can potentially become cancerous.
So, what causes the DNA changes that lead to thyroid cancer? As scientific research continues to advance, more is being learned about the causes of the condition. Some current theories include:
Inherited gene characteristics – An individual receives one copy of every gene from each of his or her parents, for a total of two copies of every gene. It is possible to inherit damaged DNA.
Gene mutations – Genes can change during a person’s lifetime. Such transformations are sometimes attributed to environmental factors, such as exposure to radiation through prior treatment or nuclear fallout. However, random events can also occur within cells that cause those cells to become cancerous for no apparent reason.
Moffitt Cancer Center is a leader in cancer research, and we have received national recognition for our work. Most notably, we have been designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center – the only one based in Florida. Through our highly focused efforts, we continue to transform the diagnosis and treatment of thyroid cancer. The surgeons at Moffitt’s Thyroid Clinic rank among the best in the country, and our patients have access to multiple innovative therapies for treating advanced cancer, including advanced non-surgical interventions and clinical trials, all in a single, convenient location. As a result, our patient outcomes and survival rates outrank national averages, and our patients enjoy an enhanced quality of life.