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Thyroid cancer triggered by obesity, latest evidence shows

New research has found that clinically overweight individuals are more at risk of developing thyroid cancer, with obesity set to cause 10,000 cases over the next ten years.

To prevent the development of thyroid cancer, healthcare professionals need to tackle rising obesity rates, experts have said.

Since 2000, obesity levels in Australia have increased by 50 per cent, with prior research revealing that the majority of the Australian population are overweight.

Australian-based academics have discovered that obesity triggers one in five thyroid cancer cases in Australia.

They also found that men who are obese were more likely to be diagnosed with thyroid cancer compared to women who are obese.

Lead author Dr Maarit Laaksonen said: “This is concerning as the prevalence of obesity in Australia has doubled during the last two decades, with 75 per cent of Australian men and 60 per cent of Australian women being overweight or obese. This finding translates to close to 10,000 thyroid cancers in the next 10 years.

“Our findings add evidence to the urgent need to halt and reverse the current global trend in weight gain, especially obesity and especially in men.”

According to the researchers, the link between Australia’s obesity levels and the development of thyroid cancer has never been analysed before.

During the trial, the scientists examined 370,000 adults to assess what impact obesity has on the development of thyroid cancer.

Dr Laaksonen said: “We linked the data from these seven studies, which all ascertained the participants’ Body Mass Index [BMI] at study baseline, with national cancer and death databases, which allowed us to estimate the strength of BMI-cancer and BMI-death associations during the follow-up.

“We estimated up-to-date prevalence of overweight and obesity in the Australian population from the latest National Health Survey from 2017 to 2018, and then combined the strength of association and exposure prevalence estimates to estimate population attributable fractions [PAF].”

She added: “The PAFs describe what fraction of future cancers at the population level is explained by current exposure. We did this by applying advanced PAF methods which I developed.”

The full research study is now available in the International Journal of Cancer.

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