Thyroid News and Recent Research Breakthroughs
Awareness of the once rarely-discussed thyroid gland is one the rise. As the thyroid’s central role in regulating everything from weight to mental health is becoming more widely recognized, the public -- and the news media -- are beginning to pay more attention. This week, we’ll take a look at a roundup of some recent thyroid news and research.
Research Shows Varying Links Between Smoking, Thyroid Disorders
Even as awareness of thyroid disorders has increased considerably in recent years, the public’s awareness of the health risks of cigarette and tobacco use has also increased. Today, the rate of tobacco use is at an all-time low. Still, researchers estimate that approximately 30% of the adult population in the United States uses cigarettes and tobacco products every year. In other countries, the rate of cigarette and tobacco use remains much higher.
A recent study published in the prestigious scientific journal The Annals of Internal Medicine sought to shed some light on the relationship between tobacco use and thyroid disorders. The investigation analyzed the health data of more than 30,000 men and women who had been diagnosed with various thyroid disorders.
The study found that smokers were more likely than non-smokers to have developed an overactive thyroid gland, otherwise known as hyperthyroidism. However, smokers were less likely to develop excessively slow thyroid function, known as hypothyroidism.
According to these results, several of the chemical compounds in tobacco smoke seem to interact with thyroid function However, some of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism seemed to recede when smokers quit using tobacco, suggesting that the results of this interaction may be reversible, at least to a certain degree.
Cosmetic Surgery Techniques Yield New Thyroid Surgery Advances
Although thyroid surgery is often the most effective treatment for a variety of thyroid disorders, the surgical procedures used can be challenging and complex. Also, because the surgical incision is often made in the delicate skin of the neck, some unsightly scarring was long thought to be inevitable.
Thanks to the efforts of a team of researchers at the Medical College of Georgia, many of these longstanding difficulties may be overcome in the near future. The team undertook a series of experiments in which new and emerging surgical techniques first developed by cosmetic surgeons were incorporated in thyroid surgery.
The team applied several standard procedures that are used in cosmetic surgery in the surgical procedures of nearly 250 men and women with thyroid disorders. These techniques included having the patient sit or stand when marking the area in which surgery was to be performed, using smaller incisions, creating symmetrical scars with smoother lines, camouflaging scars in naturally-occurring skin folds, using surgical glues instead of sutures or staples, and reducing or eliminating the use of surgical drains.
According to the researchers, these techniques all produced increased patient satisfaction over traditional methods of thyroid surgery. Furthermore, only one of the patients needed to receive additional cosmetic treatment for unsightly scars after the procedure. Although these techniques have not yet been widely incorporated, it is likely that they will shape the future development of thyroid surgery.
Environmental Link to Thyroid Cancer Bolstered by Outbreak Among Ground Zero Workers
One of the most confounding public health mysteries to emerge in recent years has been the skyrocketing rate of certain once-rare thyroid cancers in the United States. Although researchers have not yet reached a consensus on the cause of this alarming trend, many public health advocates and thyroid health activists have contended that environmental factors such as pollutants may be playing a role in the problem.
While this contention remains controversial, it appears to be supported by recent reports that a disproportionate number of the firefighters and first responders who worked on the clean-up of the World Trade Center site in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks have since been stricken with a rare form of thyroid cancer.
According to recent media reports, eight cases of the disease have been diagnosed among the relatively small group of male firefighters who served during the 9/11 response and aftermath. In addition, five other male firefighters have undergone preventive thyroidectomies after pre-cancerous cells were detected. This rate of diagnosis far exceeds the typical epidemiological pattern of thyroid cancer, which only strikes four people per 100,000, and is usually diagnosed in women.
While this trend does not definitively prove a link between environmental pollutants and thyroid cancer, it does seem to strongly suggest that such a connection may exist. Check back weekly for the latest updates on breaking thyroid news and research developments.
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