Thyroid Cancer: Statistics

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 08/2023

ON THIS PAGE: You will find information about the estimated number of people who will be diagnosed with thyroid cancer each year. You will also read general information on surviving the disease. Remember, survival rates depend on several factors, and no 2 people with cancer are the same. Use the menu to see other pages.

Every person is different, with different factors influencing their risk of being diagnosed with this cancer and the chance of recovery after a diagnosis. It is important to talk with your doctor about any questions you have around the general statistics provided below and what they may mean for you individually. The original sources for these statistics are provided at the bottom of this page.

How many people are diagnosed with thyroid cancer?

In 2023, an estimated 43,720 adults (12,540 men and 31,180 women) in the United States will be diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Thyroid cancer is the seventh most common cancer in women. Worldwide, an estimated 586,202 people were diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2020.

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. But from 2014, the incidence rate has dropped by around 2% annually as newer criteria for diagnosing thyroid cancer is being used. Thyroid cancer is often diagnosed at a younger age, compared to other cancers in adults. White people are 70% more likely to be diagnosed with the disease than Black people, who have the lowest incidence rate of the disease.

It is estimated that 2,120 deaths (970 men and 1,150 women) from this disease will occur in the United States in 2023. The death rate stayed steady from 2011 to 2020. Women are 3 times more likely to have thyroid cancer than men. However, 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. In 2020, an estimated 43,646 people worldwide died from thyroid cancer.

What is the survival rate for thyroid cancer?

There are different types of statistics that can help doctors evaluate a person’s chance of recovery from thyroid cancer. These are called survival statistics. A specific type of survival statistic is called the relative survival rate. It is often used to predict how having cancer may affect life expectancy. Relative survival rate looks at how likely people with thyroid cancer are to survive for a certain amount of time after their initial diagnosis or start of treatment compared to the expected survival of similar people without this cancer.

Example: Here is an example to help explain what a relative survival rate means. Please note this is only an example and not specific to this type of cancer. Let’s assume that the 5-year relative survival rate for a specific type of cancer is 90%. “Percent” means how many out of 100. Imagine there are 1,000 people without cancer, and based on their age and other characteristics, you expect 900 of the 1,000 to be alive in 5 years. Also imagine there are another 1,000 people similar in age and other characteristics as the first 1,000, but they all have the specific type of cancer that has a 5-year survival rate of 90%. This means it is expected that 810 of the people with the specific cancer (90% of 900) will be alive in 5 years.

It is important to remember that statistics on the survival rates for people with thyroid cancer are only an estimate. They cannot tell an individual person if cancer will or will not shorten their life. Instead, these statistics describe trends in groups of people previously diagnosed with the same disease, including specific stages of the disease.

The 5-year relative survival rate for thyroid cancer in the United States is 98%.

The survival rates for thyroid cancer vary based on several factors. These include the stage of cancer, a person’s age and general health, and how well the treatment plan works. Another factor that can affect outcomes is the specific type of thyroid cancer. 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. Around 76% of Black people are likely to be diagnosed with local thyroid cancer compared to 68% of White people. The 5-year relative survival rate is almost 100% for localized papillary, follicular, and medullary thyroid cancers. For localized anaplastic thyroid cancer, the 5-year relative survival rate is 39%.

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 relative survival rate for regional papillary thyroid cancer is 99%. For regional follicular cancer, the rate is 98%, and for regional medullary cancer, the rate is 92%. For regional anaplastic thyroid cancer, the rate is 11%.

Medullary and anaplastic thyroid cancers, which together make up about 3% of all thyroid cancers, are the most likely to spread and have the lowest survival rates. If there is distant spread to other parts of the body, it is called metastatic disease. The 5-year relative survival rate for metastatic papillary thyroid cancer is 74%. For metastatic follicular thyroid cancer, the rate is 67%. The rate for metastatic medullary thyroid cancer is 43%. For metastatic anaplastic thyroid cancer, the rate is 4%.

Experts measure relative survival rate statistics for thyroid cancer every 5 years. This means the estimate may not reflect the results of advancements in how thyroid cancer is diagnosed or treated from the last 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 2023, the ACS website, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer website. (All sources accessed March 2023.)

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.