Hypothyroidism and liver cancer in women
Women with long-standing hypothyroidism, commonly referred to as an underactive thyroid, are at risk of liver cancer.
Hypothyroidism is a condition in, which the thyroid gland fails to produce enough thyroid hormone. The gland normally releases the hormones T4 and T3 that control metabolism and underproduction may affect all body functions. Risk factors for hypothyroidism include: being older than 50 years of age, exposure of the neck to X-ray or radiation treatments, female gender, obesity and thyroid surgery.
Past studies have revealed that thyroid hormones are involved in lipid metabolism and fatty acid oxidation and there is evidence linking hypothyroidism with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis - the fatty inflammation of liver cells. However, whether thyroid disorders are associated with liver cancer remained unclear. Researchers from America compared the occurrence and nature of thyroid disease in 420 patients with hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common type of liver cancer, and a group of 1,104 healthy individuals without hypothyroidism, to investigate the association between hypothyroidism and hepatocellular carcinoma risk in men and women. Data of all participants regarding demographic factors, alcohol use and family history of cancer was collected and analysed.
The researchers found that women who had hypothyroidism for more than 10 years were three times more likely to develop liver cancer than those without thyroid disease. If the patient also had diabetes and chronic hepatitis virus infection, the odds ratio increased to 10 times and 31 times, respectively.
As noted, hypothyroidism did not affect the risk of liver cancer in men. Hyperthyroidism, an overactive thyroid also had no impact on the risk of liver cancer in either sex.
The study concluded that long-term hypothyroidism is associated with HCC in women and this risk is independent of established hepatocellular carcinoma risk factors like chronic hepatitis, alcoholism, diabetes and obesity. Further studies, however, are warranted to confirm this association and to identify the underlying mechanisms and the genetic predisposition factors that may contribute to susceptibility to HCC development in the presence of thyroid disease.
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