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Over the past 35 years, Americans have seen the nation's incidence of thyroid cancer almost triple.
But experts now say that most of that rise is actually due to a spike in diagnoses and perhaps even over-diagnoses rather than an increase in the disease itself.
A new study looked at data concerning patients in 9 different regions, who had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer between 1975 and 2009. The investigators observed that over that timeframe the death rate remained steady while the rate of disease rose dramatically from roughly 5 patients to 14 patients out every 100,000 residents.
Why? Almost all the rise was due to an increase in detection of small papillary cancer – a common and less aggressive form of the disease.
The researchers therefore concluded that today's thyroid cancer epidemic is a diagnostic epidemic led, in part, by the over-diagnosing of disease that might be better left untreated or perhaps even reclassified as something other than cancer in the first place.
I'm Dr. Cindy Haines of HealthDay TV, with the news doctors are reading – health news that matters to you.