What Other Cancers Are Linked to Thyroid Cancer?

A thyroid cancer diagnosis can mark the beginning of a lifelong journey of cancer screening. Studies show that survivors of thyroid cancer face increased risks of developing secondary malignancies like breast, prostate, kidney, adrenal, and other cancers. While thyroid cancer often has a good prognosis when treated early, some of its treatments may increase the likelihood of additional cancers later. Today, we’ll look at what other cancers are linked to thyroid cancers.

Cancers Linked to Thyroid Cancer

A diagnosis of thyroid cancer has been shown to increase the risk of developing several other types of cancer:

Breast Cancer

Women with thyroid cancer have a 67% higher risk of developing breast cancer than the general population. One study found that breast cancer risk was highest within the first 5 years after thyroid cancer diagnosis. The link may be due to shared genetic factors and hormone influences.

Prostate Cancer

Men with thyroid cancer have an increased risk for prostate cancer. Radiation exposure is a known risk factor for both cancers, which may help explain the association.

Kidney Cancer

An increased risk of kidney cancer has been observed among thyroid cancer survivors. This may be related to genetic syndromes that predispose people to different types of cancer.

Adrenal Cancer

Studies showed a high risk of adrenal cancer after thyroid cancer. The adrenal glands sit above the kidneys and influence hormones. More research is needed on this link.

In addition to these cancers, there is evidence of slightly increased risks for cancers of the colon, ovary, uterus, pancreas, and blood cells in people diagnosed with thyroid cancer.


The blood cancer most commonly linked to thyroid cancer and radioactive iodine (RAI) treatment is leukemia, specifically acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Radioactive iodine is a treatment commonly used for certain types of thyroid cancer, such as papillary and follicular thyroid cancer, especially when the cancer is more advanced or has spread beyond the thyroid gland.

While RAI treatment is effective in targeting thyroid cancer cells, there is a small but notable risk of developing secondary cancers, including leukemia. The risk of developing leukemia after RAI treatment is relatively low, but it is higher than the risk for individuals who have not received this treatment. Studies have shown that the risk of secondary cancers increases with the dose of radioactive iodine received. However, for most patients with thyroid cancer, the potential benefits of RAI treatment in managing and treating thyroid cancer outweigh the risks of developing secondary cancers.

It’s important for patients considering RAI treatment to discuss the potential risks and benefits with their healthcare provider to make an informed decision that takes into account their specific situation and health status.


Shared Risk Factors

There are several explanations for the association between thyroid cancer and other cancers:

  • Genetic mutations – Inherited genetic syndromes can increase the risk for certain cancers.
  • Radiation exposure – Radiation therapy for thyroid cancer may increase the likelihood of other radiation-induced cancers.
  • Medical surveillance – Closer screening after thyroid cancer may uncover other cancers sooner.
  • Hormone influencesThyroid hormones interact with receptors on breast, prostate, and other cancers.
  • Treatment side effects – Cancer treatments may damage cells and increase cancer risk.

Diagnosing Linked Cancers

Signs that warrant screening for associated cancers in thyroid cancer survivors include:

  • Breast lumps, nipple discharge
  • Abdominal mass or pain
  • Blood in urine or stool
  • Unexplained weight loss, fever, fatigue
  • Coughing up blood

Screening and early detection are vital since thyroid cancer survivors have better outcomes when linked cancers are found early. Testing may include mammograms, PSA tests, kidney imaging, and endoscopies.

Treatment and Prognosis

If thyroid cancer spreads or returns after treatment or another cancer develops, treatments may include surgery, radiation, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or targeted drugs. Prognosis and survival rates for dual cancers depend on the types and stages involved.


While thyroid cancer itself often has a good prognosis, its survivors face higher odds of secondary cancers of the breast, prostate, kidney, and adrenal glands. By recognizing these risks, undergoing appropriate screening, and choosing minimal treatments when reasonable, outcomes can be optimized if a second cancer does emerge. Continuing research to uncover the precise mechanisms linking cancers will pave the way for better prevention and care.


A Linkage Between Thyroid and Breast Cancer: A Common Etiology?

Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma: An Autobiographical Case Report – PMC

Thyroid Cancer: Statistics

Cancer Stat Facts: Thyroid Cancer

Second Cancers After Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid and renal cancers: A bidirectional association – PMC

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