Thyroid Cancer: Statistics

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 03/2022

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 43,800 adults (11,860 men and 31,940 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 to 2018, the incidence rate dropped by 2.5% annually as more conservative criteria for diagnosing thyroid cancer was used. Thyroid cancer is often diagnosed at a younger age, compared to other adult cancers.

It is estimated that 2,230 deaths (1,070 men and 1,160 women) from this disease will occur in the United States this year. The death rate stayed steady from 2010 to 2019. 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 died from thyroid cancer worldwide.

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. In the United States, 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 34%.

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 98%, and for regional medullary cancer, the rate is 90%. For regional anaplastic thyroid cancer, the rate is 9%.

Medullary and anaplastic thyroid cancers, which together make up about 3% 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 75%. For metastatic follicular thyroid cancer, the rate is 63%. The rate for metastatic medullary thyroid cancer is 40%. 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. 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) publications, Cancer Facts & Figures 2022 and Cancer Facts & Figures 2020, the ACS website, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer website. (All sources accessed January 2022.)

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.