A new study led by scientists from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in collaboration with scientists in China assessed the epidemiological features of thyroid cancer and quantified the impact of overdiagnosis across regions of China. The study was published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.
Overdiagnosis of cancer poses a public health challenge to emerging economies, notably China. In China, thyroid cancer has had the largest increase in incidence of all cancer types in recent years.
In this population-based study, the researchers found important epidemiological features pointing to a sizeable impact of overdiagnosis of thyroid cancer, which varied across regions. These features include the large geographical variability in thyroid cancer incidence, the large proportion of papillary carcinomas, the association with access to health care, and the distortion of age-specific curves in certain registries. The findings suggest that regional health-care practice should be considered in the planning of regulation measures to curb the rapid expansion of overdiagnosis.
Overdiagnosis of thyroid cancer is an example of medical service overuse, which is a major challenge to increasing health service equality and reducing government expenditure simultaneously. These findings from China – a country that is undergoing a rapid transition to a higher socioeconomic level – should serve as an early warning to this emerging economy and to other countries at a similar stage of development.
Li M, Zheng R, Dal Maso L, Zhang S, Wei W, Vaccarella S.
Mapping overdiagnosis of thyroid cancer in China
Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol, Published online 20 April 2021;