Thyroid cancer after childhood exposure to external radiation: An updated pooled analysis of 12 studies

Lene H.S. Veiga, Erik Holmberg, Harald Anderson, Linda Pottern, Siegal Sadetzki, M. Jacob Adams, Ritsu Sakata, Arthur B. Schneider, Peter Inskip, Parveen Bhatti, Robert Johansson, Gila Neta, Roy Shore, Florent De Vathaire, Lena Damber, Ruth Kleinerman, Michael M. Hawkins, Margaret Tucker, Marie Lundell, Jay H. Lubin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Studies have causally linked external thyroid radiation exposure in childhood with thyroid cancer. In 1995, investigators conducted relative risk analyses of pooled data from seven epidemiologic studies. Doses were mostly <10 Gy, although childhood cancer therapies can result in thyroid doses >50 Gy. We pooled data from 12 studies of thyroid cancer patients who were exposed to radiation in childhood (ages <20 years), more than doubling the data, including 1,070 (927 exposed) thyroid cancers and 5.3 million (3.4 million exposed) person-years. Relative risks increased supralinearly through 2-4 Gy, leveled off between 10-30 Gy and declined thereafter, remaining significantly elevated above 50 Gy. There was a significant relative risk trend for doses <0.10 Gy (P < 0.01), with no departure from linearity (P = 0.36). We observed radiogenic effects for both papillary and nonpapillary tumors. Estimates of excess relative risk per Gy (ERR/Gy) were homogeneous by sex (P = 0.35) and number of radiation treatments (P = 0.84) and increased with decreasing age at the time of exposure. The ERR/Gy estimate was significant within ten years of radiation exposure, 2.76 (95% CI, 0.94-4.98), based on 42 exposed cases, and remained elevated 50 years and more after exposure. Finally, exposure to chemotherapy was significantly associated with thyroid cancer, with results supporting a nonsynergistic (additive) association with radiation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)473-484
Number of pages12
JournalRadiation Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2016


FundersFunder number
Nordic Countries Childhood Cancer Survivor Study
Nordic Countries Childhood Cancer Survivor Study Group
National Institutes of Health
National Cancer Institute
Children's Cancer Research Fund
Lance Armstrong Foundation147149
Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer InstituteU24CA055727


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