Increased cancer risk in children of mothers with thyroid disorders


Thyroid disorders in mothers-to-be increases the risk for future thyroid cancer in the children. This is shown in a new study in the journal The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology where IGP researcher Ingrid Glimelius has participated.

Thyroid cancer tends to be diagnosed at a younger age compared with most other malignancies. It is therefore important to determine if there are risk factors early in life, even before birth, that affect the development of this type of cancer. In the new study the researchers have analysed medical registries from the Nordic countries and found that if the mothers have been diagnosed with a thyroid disorder before or during the pregnancy the risk for thyroid cancer increased in the children.

“We could see this increased risk for several different thyroid disorder in the mothers, both hyper- and hypothyroidism, goiter and benign tumours. I think these are alarming results, especially in light of that so many people in Sweden are treated for thyroid problems,” says Ingrid Glimelius.

The risk for the children to develop thyroid cancer later in life was also affect by factors in the babies such as high birth weight or congenital malfunction of the thyroid. If the mother had diabetes before the pregnancy also resulted in an increased risk for future thyroid cancer in the children.

The new findings should motivate additional research into early-life exposures that might cause thyroid cancer. This might help to identify modifiable risk factors and targets for primary prevention of the disease.

“We need to increase our understanding of cancer risk factors, to be able to reduced them as much as possible. For thyroid cancer we would for instance need to determine if the enhanced risk is due to treatments administrated during the pregnancy, iodine deficiency in the fetus, genetic associations or other factors,” says Ingrid Glimelius.

More information:
Paper in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology
Ingrid Glimelius’ research

Last modified: 2022-01-26