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Widespread Thyroid Cancer Screening Discouraged by USPSTF

NEW YORK (360Dx) – The US Preventive Services Task Force today recommended against routine screening for thyroid cancer in asymptomatic patients, despite a rise in the incidence of detection of the disease.

In a statement detailing its recommendation, the USPSTF said that over the past decade, the incidence of thyroid cancer detection in the US has risen 4.5 percent annually, faster than any other cancer, but without a corresponding change in the mortality rate. Further, it noted that in most cases of thyroid cancer, the prognosis is good with a five-year survival rate of 98.1 percent.

While the task force also found that while that there is insufficient evidence pointing to direct harm resulting from screening for thyroid cancer, it determined that "the overall magnitude of the harms of screening and treatment can be bounded as at least moderate, given adequate evidence of harms of treatment and indirect evidence that overdiagnosis and overtreatment are likely to be substantial with population-based screening

"The USPSTF therefore determined that the net benefit of screening for thyroid cancer is negative," the task force said.

In an opinion piece in the Journal of the American Medical Association, authors supported the USPSTF's recommendation, saying "we should be relieved that the USPSTF reached this conclusion."

They noted that about 45 percent of thyroid cases in the US are overdiagnosed. If a thyroid screening program were implemented in the US, "many more slow-growing papillary thyroid cancers would be detected, but it is unlikely that any of the deadly anaplastic thyroid cancers would be detected. Thus, fast-growing cancer would likely show up between screening episodes," the authors wrote.