Thyroid disorders are common in Lexington and Columbia. About 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease. Fortunately, thyroid cancer is rare, and treatment is usually successful—especially when caught early. Scientists at Penn State College of Medicine have recently identified a new gene mutation that has been linked to thyroid cancer, a discovery that may allow doctors to take a more proactive approach in treating the disease.
The Link Between Hydrogen Peroxide and Thyroid Cancer
The thyroid is a tiny, butterfly-shaped gland at the base of the neck. Don’t be fooled by its size; the thyroid plays a huge role in controlling many of the body’s everyday functions. It produces hormones that regulate metabolism and contribute to growth and development. Major organs like the heart, brain, kidneys, liver and skin depend on the thyroid.
When the thyroid produces too much or too little hormone, your body won’t be able to function optimally. Your energy levels, body temperature and weight are all affected. This can result in a number of disorders including hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s disease, Grave’s disease, goiters and thyroid nodules. Thyroid cancer is another possibility, but fortunately, it’s pretty rare; there are fewer than 200,000 cases reported each year. Thyroid cancer is one of the most easily treatable forms of cancer and the success rate is very high. Like all cancers, it is the result of abnormal cell mutation.
The gene mutation responsible for thyroid cancer was recently discovered by researchers at Penn College of Medicine. According to Dr. Darrin Bann, the lead author of the study, the mutation is the first and only one associated with familial thyroid cancer and helps explain why thyroid cancer is more inheritable than most other cancers. People with a first-degree relative (e.g., a parent or sibling) who has thyroid cancer are 2-5 times more likely to develop thyroid cancer themselves.
Their study, published in the medical journal Cancer Research, relied on next generation gene sequencing to identify the genetic makeup of eight thyroid cancer patients spanning four generations. They found that every family member with thyroid cancer had a rare mutation in the DUOX2 gene responsible for creating dual oxidase 2, a naturally-occurring protein in the thyroid gland that produces hydrogen peroxide. The researchers discovered that this mutation caused excess levels of hydrogen peroxide to be made. Hydrogen peroxide is harmful to genes in high concentrations and is believed to be the catalyst for the gene mutation that leads to thyroid cancer. Other mutations had been previously identified in families with thyroid cancer, but the DUOX2 mutation is the only one directly connected to thyroid tissue.
Dr. Bann and his colleagues are hopeful that this discovery will lead researchers to identify other mutations that increase the risk for oxidative damage and help scientists develop prevention strategies, including treatments with antioxidants.
Thyroid disorders are often difficult to detect. Your CENTA Medical Group ear, nose and throat specialist urges you to seek medical attention if you experience any symptoms of thyroid dysfunction, a list that includes fatigue, increased sensitivity to heat or cold, unexplained weight loss or gain, nervousness or irritability, reduced mental alertness, changes in hair and skin and more.