Thyroid Cancer: Is Your House Killing You?


DURHAM, N.C. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — A recent study found in the last 30 years, cases of thyroid cancer have tripled! Researchers believe the culprit may be lurking in places you would least expect it.

Richard and Carol Belton enjoy reminiscing over family photos. Recently, Richard’s life took a serious turn.

“They told me, you know, it was cancer,” Richard told Ivanhoe.

Richard had thyroid cancer.

Julie Ann Sosa, MD, a Professor of Surgery & Medicine, Chief of Endocrine Surgery; Leader, Endocrine Neoplasia Diseases Group; Co-Leader, Solid Tumor Therapeutics Program, Duke Cancer Institute, at Duke University Medical Center explained, “There’s a virtual epidemic of thyroid cancer that is being seen in the United States.” (Read Full Interview)

Researchers at Duke University wanted to know what was behind the spike, so they studied possible causes.

Dr. Sosa continued, “The one that sort of fascinated us was potential exposures in the environment.”

They believe the culprit may be lurking right inside your home, in the form of flame retardant chemicals!

“These chemicals, the flame retardants, are located in many different things in the home … In your sofa, in drapes, curtains,” said Dr. Sosa.

Dr. Julie Ann Sosa and her team wondered if these chemicals worked as endocrine disrupters; possibly altering the way the thyroid works. But first they had to measure these exposures. Researchers used a special vacuum in patients’ homes, collecting dust to be tested in the lab. The results confirmed their suspicions.

Dr. Sosa stated, “The levels were significantly higher in the patients with papillary thyroid cancer.”

Richard took part in the Duke study and hopes that one day it will lead to a cure.

“I just hope to find out what causes it so helps somebody else you know down the road,”said Richard.

A road he and Carol will continue to walk together.

The study found the higher the level of exposure the patient had to flame retardants, the more aggressive the cancer. Dr. Sosa says the hope is research like this will someday spark industry-wide change, and companies will be compelled to use less harmful chemicals.

Contributors to this news report include: Janna Ross, Field Producer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Gabriella Battistiol, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer and Editor.

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REPORT:         MB #4366

THYROID CANCER: According to the National Cancer Institute there are over 56,000 new cases of thyroid cancer in the United States each year; the majority of those diagnosed are papillary thyroid cancer which is the most common type. Females are more likely to have thyroid cancer at a 3:1 ratio. It can occur in any age group, but is most common after the age of 30 and its aggressiveness may increase with age. It frequently presents without any symptoms whatsoever, but the most common symptom is a lump in the neck. Less common symptoms may include hoarseness or a change in the patient’s voice. Pain is very uncommon except in inflammatory conditions of the thyroid and the rare instance of medullary thyroid cancer.


FLAME RETARDANTS: One of the key components in reducing the risk of possibly devastating impact of fires, flame retardants are added to or treat potential flammable materials. The term refers to a function, not a family of certain chemicals. A variety of different chemicals with various properties and structures may act as flame retardants and these chemicals are often combined for maximum effectiveness. Some of the most common elements in flame retardants include bromine, phosphorus, chlorine, and nitrogen. Flame retardants are not readily interchangeable. They are added to or applied as a treatment to materials to prevent fires from starting, limit the spread of fires, as well as minimize the damage as a result of a fire. They can be found in electronics, electrical devices, buildings, construction materials, furnishings, and even transportation elements such as airplanes, trains and cars.


NEW STUDY: Researchers at Duke University are studying the connection between flame retardants in the environment and the chance of someone developing thyroid cancer. Observing that the chemical structure of flame retardants in the home bares a remarkable resemblance to a thyroid hormone molecule, they wondered if it was mimicking the thyroid hormone and in doing so potentially altering the way the thyroid gland works. Another interesting observation was that as rates of thyroid cancer increase, so have the use of flame retardants overall also increased. They conducted their study by going into people’s homes and cleaning, specifically vacuuming with a special vacuum. They then took the dust from the homes and studied it to dissect out individual flame-retardants and the levels and mixtures that result in accumulative exposure. Building upon this study, they created wrist bands that patients could wear for seven days straight, which measure exposure to flame retardants everywhere a person may go, covering workplaces and transportation. They are currently recruiting patients for further study, and hope to validate their findings at a population level outside of the Durham area.

(Source: Julie Ann Sosa, MD, MA, FACS)


Sarah Avery

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Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Julie Ann Sosa, MD, MA, FACS

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