WASHINGTON, May 9 (Xinhua) -- Doctors should not screen for thyroid cancer in adults who have no signs or symptoms of the disease, an influential U.S. panel recommended Tuesday.
That's because doing so could result in harms that outweigh the benefits, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force said in a final recommendation, reaffirming its advice first issued in 1996.
"While there is very little evidence of the benefits of screening for thyroid cancer, there is considerable evidence of the serious harms of treatment, such as damage to the nerves that control speaking and breathing," said task force member Karina Davison, who is a professor of medicine and psychiatry and the director of the Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health at Columbia University Medical Center.
"What limited evidence is available does not suggest that screening enables people to live longer, healthier lives," Davison added.
Thyroid cancer affects the thyroid gland, a gland in the neck that produces hormones that help control the body's metabolism.
The incidence of thyroid cancer detection has increased by 4.5 percent per year over the last 10 years, faster than any other cancer in the United States, but the mortality rate from the disease has not changed substantially, according to the panel's report published by the U.S. journal JAMA.
In 2017, an estimated 56,300 new cases of thyroid cancer are expected to develop in the United States, representing about 3.8 percent of all new cancer cases in the country.
The panel reviewed studies on the benefits and harms of screening and treatment for thyroid cancer and found that doing so leads to an increase in new diagnoses of thyroid cancer but it has nothing to do with the number of people who die from the disease.
"Overdiagnosis occurs because screening for thyroid cancer often identifies small or slow growing tumors that might never affect a person during their lifetime," explained task force member Seth Landefeld, who is chairman of the department of medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine.
"People who are treated for these small tumors are exposed to serious risks from surgery or radiation, but do not receive any real benefit."
The task force is an independent, volunteer panel of experts in the United States that makes recommendations about the effectiveness of specific preventive care services such as screenings, counseling services, and preventive medications.