Reducing your risk for thyroid cancer

You may lower your risk of developing thyroid cancer by doing the following.

Have a healthy body weight

Research shows that obesity increases your risk for thyroid cancer. You can lower your risk by having a healthy body weight. Eating well and being physically active can help you have a healthy body weight.

Avoid unnecessary contact with radiation

Talk to your doctor or dentist about the need for each imaging test. When you need an imaging test like an x-ray, make sure that your doctor or dentist uses shields to protect your head, neck and body from radiation.

Eat vegetables and fruit

Eating a variety of vegetables each day probably protects against thyroid cancer.

Cruciferous vegetables belong to the cabbage family and include broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. Some studies show that eating very large amounts of cruciferous vegetables may increase the risk of developing thyroid cancer. Other studies show that cruciferous vegetables may not be any different than other types of vegetables.

Find out if you’re at high risk for thyroid cancer

Some people can have a higher than average risk for thyroid cancer. Talk to your doctor about your risk. If you are at higher than average risk, you may need to visit your doctor more often to check for thyroid cancer. Your doctor will recommend what tests you should have and how often you should have them. This may include genetic risk assessment and testing, especially when there is a family history of medullary thyroid cancer.

A thyroidectomy is surgery to completely remove the thyroid. It may be offered to people who have a genetic condition called multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN2). Removing the thyroid can help reduce their risk of developing medullary thyroid cancer.

Find out more about genetic testing.

More information about reducing your risk of cancer

Learn how cancer can be prevented and what you can do to reduce your risk.

Expert review and references

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  • Committee to Assess Health Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation, National Research Council. Health Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation: BEIR VII Phase 2. The National Academies Press; 2006.
  • Ma J, Huang M, Wang L, Ye W, Tong Y, Wang H . Obesity and risk of thyroid cancer: evidence from a meta-analysis of 21 observational studies. Medical Science Monitor. International Scientific Information, Inc; 2015: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4315628/pdf/medscimonit-21-283.pdf.
  • Meinhold CL, Ron E, Schonfeld SJ, et al . Nonradiation risk factors for thyroid cancer in the US Radiologic Technologists Study. American Journal of Epidemiology. Oxford Journals; 2010.
  • Rinaldi S, Lise M, Clavel-Chapelon F, et al . Body size and risk of differentiated thyroid carcinomas: findings from the EPIC study. International Journal of Cancer. Wiley; 2012: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ijc.27601/abstract.
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