Thyroid cancers potentially preventable by reducing overweight and obesity in Australia: A pooled cohort study

Maarit A. Laaksonen*, Robert J. MacInnis, Karen Canfell, Jonathan E. Shaw, Dianna J. Magliano, Emily Banks, Graham G. Giles, Julie E. Byles, Tiffany K. Gill, Paul Mitchell, Vasant Hirani, Robert G. Cumming, Claire M. Vajdic

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    8 Citations (Scopus)


    Thyroid cancer incidence and the prevalence of overweight and obesity are increasing, but the future thyroid cancer burden attributable to contemporary levels of overweight and obesity has not been evaluated before. We quantified this burden in Australia, and assessed whether the overweight/obesity-attributable burden differed by sex or other population subgroupings. We estimated the strength of the associations of overweight and obesity with thyroid cancer with adjusted proportional hazards models using pooled data from seven Australian cohorts (N = 367 058) with 431 thyroid cancer cases ascertained from linked national cancer registry data during a maximum 22-year follow-up. We combined these estimates with nationally representative 2017 to 2018 estimates of overweight and obesity prevalence to estimate population attributable fractions (PAFs) of future thyroid cancers attributable to overweight and obesity, accounting for competing risk of death, and compared PAFs for population subgroups. Contemporary levels of overweight and obesity explain 18.6% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 5.2%-30.2%), and obesity alone 13.7% (95% CI: 5.2%-21.4%), of the future thyroid cancer burden. The obesity-attributable thyroid cancer burden is 21.4% (95% CI: 2.8%-36.5%) for men and 10.1% (95% CI: 0.8%-18.6%) for women. Were the currently obese overweight instead, 9.9% (95% CI: 1.0%-18.1%) of thyroid cancers could be avoided. The relative overweight/obesity-attributable burden is higher for those consuming on average more than two alcoholic drinks per day (63.4%) and for those who are not married/co-habiting (33.2%). In conclusion, avoiding excess weight, especially obesity, should be a priority for thyroid cancer prevention. Further studies, with findings stratified by tumour size, may reveal the potential role of overdiagnosis in our results.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1281-1290
    Number of pages10
    JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2022


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