Thyroid Cancer: Statistics

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 01/2020

ON THIS PAGE: You will find information about the number of people who are diagnosed with thyroid cancer each year. You will also read general information on surviving the disease. Remember, survival rates depend on several factors. Use the menu to see other pages.

This year, an estimated 52,890 adults (12,720 men and 40,170 women) in the United States will be diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Thyroid cancer is the fifth most common cancer in women.

This year, the disease will be the most commonly diagnosed cancer in people age 15 to 29. The number of new cases in women in their 20s is 5 times higher than for men in their 20s. It will also be the most common cancer in men age 30 to 39 and the second most common cancer in women in the same age group.

Until recently, thyroid cancer was the most quickly increasing cancer diagnosis in the United States. Researchers believe that part of the reason for the increase was that new, highly sensitive diagnostic tests led to increased detection of smaller cancers. The increase has now dropped from 7% annually during the 2000s to 2% annually in men from 2012 to 2016. Rates in women stabilized during the same period. Between 2007 and 2016, the largest increases in new cases of thyroid cancer occurred in adolescents age 15 to 19, with an almost 4% increase in females and an almost 5% increase in males.

It is estimated that 2,180 deaths (1,040 men and 1,140 women) from this disease will occur this year. Women are 3 times more likely to have thyroid cancer than men, but women and men die at similar rates. This suggests that men have a worse prognosis than women when there is a diagnosis of thyroid cancer. Prognosis is the chance of recovery.

The 5-year survival rate tells you what percent of people live at least 5 years after the cancer is found. Percent means how many out of 100. Overall, the 5-year survival rate for people with thyroid cancer is 98%. However, survival rates are based on many factors, including the specific type of thyroid cancer and stage of disease.

If the cancer is located only in the thyroid, it is called localized thyroid cancer. About two-thirds of cases are diagnosed at this stage. The 5-year survival rate is almost 100% for localized papillary, follicular, and medullary thyroid cancers. For localized anaplastic thyroid cancer, the 5-year survival rate is 31%.

If thyroid cancer has spread to nearby tissues or organs and/or the regional lymph nodes, it is called regional thyroid cancer. The 5-year survival rate for regional papillary thyroid cancer is 99%. For regional follicular cancer, the rate is 96%, and for regional medullary cancer, the rate is 90%. For regional anaplastic thyroid cancer, the rate is 12%.

Medullary and anaplastic thyroid cancers, which together make up 5% of all thyroid cancers, are more likely to spread. If there is distant spread to other parts of the body, it is called metastatic disease. The 5-year survival rate for metastatic papillary thyroid cancer is 78%. For metastatic follicular thyroid cancer, the rate is 63%. The rate for metastatic medullary thyroid cancer is 39%. For metastatic anaplastic thyroid cancer, the rate is 4%.

It is important to remember that statistics on the survival rates for people with thyroid cancer are an estimate. The estimate comes from annual data based on the number of people with this cancer in the United States. Also, experts measure the survival statistics every 5 years. So the estimate may not show the results of better diagnosis or treatment available for less than 5 years. Talk with your doctor if you have any questions about this information. Learn more about understanding statistics.

Statistics adapted from the American Cancer Society's (ACS) publication, Cancer Facts & Figures 2020, and the ACS website (January 2020).

The next section in this guide is Medical Illustrations. It offers drawings of body parts often affected by thyroid cancer. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.