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March 1994

Childhood Thyroid CancerCharacteristics and Long-term Outcome in Children Irradiated for Benign Conditions of the Head and Neck

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1994;148(3):260-265. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1994.02170030030006

Objective:  To determine the characteristics and long-term outcome of radiation-induced thyroid cancer in children.

Design:  Retrospective review of a cohort of 4296 irradiated patients who received childhood radiation treatment to the head and neck area at the same hospital.

Patients:  Forty-one children who were younger than 20 years when thyroid cancer developed in them and 77 adults in whom thyroid cancer developed. All 118 cases were diagnosed before 1974 and were followed up for a median of 19.4 years.

Results:  Children presented with clinically palpable lymph nodes more often thanadults (30.7% vs 15.1%, P=.05) and had more recurrences (39% vs 16%, P=.05). Despite these frequent recurrences, only one patient (an adult) died of thyroid cancer. Seventy percent of the recurrences occurred during the first 10 years of follow-up, but recurrences continued after 20 years. The adults had previously identified factors that predicted the risk of recurrences, but none could be identified in the children.

Conclusion:  The presentation and relatively good outcome of radiation-induced thyroid cancer in children is similar to that in nonirradiated children. Frequent and late recurrences call for lifelong follow-up.(Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1994;148:260-265)