Thyroid cancer increases almost fivefold in Queensland

New Cancer Council data has found a fivefold increase in rates of thyroid during the past 30 years in Queensland, with nearly 500 Queenslanders diagnosed in 2012* compared to less than 50 diagnoses in 1982.

The figures show the rate of thyroid cancer in males is rising, with early evidence the rate among females is starting to stabilise.

The incidence rate for men has been increasing by an average of five per cent per year in Queensland since 1982.

Cancer Council Queensland spokesperson Katie Clift said more research was needed to determine the cause of the rapid rise in cases.

“Rates of thyroid cancer have increased significantly in many countries including Australia, and the reasons why are still largely unknown,” Ms Clift said.

“Potentially, a range of factors may be involved, including obesity and environmental factors, and even the use of new diagnostic tests that are capable of detecting very small tumours.

“More research into the reasons for these rapid increases is particularly important moving forward.

“Any possible changes to the long-term trend will also require careful monitoring.”

The good news is that survival rates for Queenslanders diagnosed with thyroid cancer are high

“Improvements in early diagnosis and treatment have seen five-year relative survival rates increase from about 89 per cent between 1982 to 1989 to nearly 97 per cent today,” Ms Clift said.

“But for reasons still unknown, the disease is becoming more common among younger Queenslanders.

In 1982, 1.3 per 100,000 people aged under 50 years were diagnosed with thyroid cancer. By 2012, the figure had risen to 7.3 per 100,000.

“For a young Queenslander, dealing with a cancer diagnosis and ongoing treatment can be extremely distressing and challenging,” Ms Clift said.

“We’re urging all Queenslanders diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and their friends and family, to reach out for necessary support by calling Cancer Council’s 13 11 20.”

Cancer Council Queensland urged men and women to be aware of the symptoms of thyroid cancer, and to see their GP with any questions or concerns.

“Thyroid cancer tends to develop slowly, without many obvious symptoms,” Ms Clift said.

“One of the more common symptoms is a painless lump in the neck or throat that may gradually get bigger. People may also experience hoarseness and difficulty swallowing or breathing.”

Thyroid cancer occurs when the cells of the thyroid gland (a gland in front of the neck, below the voice box) grow and divide in a disorderly way.

Thyroid cancer is the seventh most common cancer affecting Queensland women. The median age of diagnosis for Queensland women is 49, and Queensland men 56, much younger than most other types of cancer.

More information about Cancer Council Queensland is available via 13 11 20 or

For more information or interviews, please contact:
Katie Clift, Executive Manager, Media and Spokesperson, Cancer Council Queensland
Ph: (07) 3634 5372 or 0409 001 171

*Latest available data from the Queensland Cancer Registry.