Protective effect of thyroidectomy for those exposed to radioactive iodine?
March 14, 2011 1:32 PM   Subscribe

If a person has had their thyroid completely removed, would they be at lower risk of radiation poisoning from atmospheric radioactive iodine? Also, does radiation poisoning typically cause one of the more aggressive types of thyroid cancer (follicular, medullary, anaplastic) or does it cause the more common and more treatable papillary thyroid cancer?
posted by HotToddy to Health & Fitness (2 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
According to this, papillary cancer accounts for 85% of the thyroid cancers attributable to radiation exposure. Follicular and anaplastic cancers can be associated with radiation exposure, though it's less typical, and medullary cancer is not associated with radiation exposure at all.

Also, this may be relevant to your question about thyroidectomy and subsequent radiation exposure: "A group of Russian and Japanese scientists has determined that people exposed to radiation during the Chernobyl disaster are unlikely to develop recurring papillary thyroid cancer as a result of subsequent treatment with radioactive iodine. The team said this finding may have consequences both for people accidentally exposed to radiation and for those who have been medically irradiated as a treatment."

A couple of other points:

Though follicular cancer is indeed rarer than papillary and is termed more aggressive, in general it has very similar treatment success rates (upper 90% range) as papillary. (I had follicular thyroid cancer and a full thyroidectomy in my 20s.)

Atmospheric exposure is not the only method of exposure to radioactive iodine; in fact, it's far more likely that you would be exposed through dairy products. This is not because iodine occurs naturally in milk -- it doesn't -- but because cows can be exposed atmospherically and through their food. (In fact, you are exposed to regular old iodine in dairy products every day due to any iodine in animal feed and also to the iodine that's routinely used to sanitize milking equipment.)
posted by scody at 2:47 PM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would check out this article, this page, and this org.
posted by elpea at 2:47 PM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

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