Epidemiology of reproductive and hormonal factors in thyroid cancer: Evidence from a case-control study in the Middle East



Thyroid cancer is the second most common neoplasm among women in Kuwait and several other countries in the Middle East. Most of these countries also have relatively high birth and total fertility rates. To examine potential relationships between reproductive and hormonal factors and thyroid cancer, we conducted a population-based case-control interview study among 238 women diagnosed with thyroid cancer and a similar number of individually matched controls in Kuwait. Among the demographic variables, women with 12+ years of education had a significantly reduced risk of thyroid cancer (OR = 0.4; 95% CI: 0.2–0.8; p-trend <0.05). The average age at diagnosis (±SD) of thyroid cancer was 34.7 ± 11 years. Events such as age at menarche, pregnancy, menopausal status and age at menopause were not associated with thyroid cancer. There was an association with age at last pregnancy and parity. Women who had their last pregnancy at ages ≥30 years were at a significantly increased risk (OR = 2.1; 95% CI: 1.2–3.8); there was also a significant trend in risk with increasing age at last pregnancy. There was a modest increase in risk among women who had borne ≥5 children (OR = 1.5; 95% CI: 0.9–2.5). A joint analysis of these factors showed that childbearing during the latter half of reproductive life had a substantial effect on the incidence of thyroid cancer; for any given level of parity, there was about a 2-fold increased risk if the age at last pregnancy was ≥30 years. A substantial recent-birth effect, in relation to subsequent diagnosis of thyroid cancer, was observed during the second and third year after a birth (OR = 2.0; 95% CI: 1.0–4.1). In contrast, spontaneous abortion seemed to have a protective effect. There was a significant decrease in risk among women who had a miscarriage as outcome of first pregnancy (OR = 0.1; 95% CI: 0.03–0.4) and those who had experienced ≥3 miscarriages (OR = 0.3; 95% CI: 0.1–0.8; p-trend <0.05). Overall, any female hormone use was not associated with thyroid cancer risk. New association is suggested for a history of post-partum thyroiditis (OR = 10.2; 95% CI: 2.3–44.8). These data support the hypothesis that reproductive factors and patterns may influence, or contribute to, the risk of thyroid cancer among women. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.