• Thyroid cancer;
  • thyroid carcinoma;
  • ionizing radiation;
  • Three Mile Island;
  • nuclear power plant;
  • papillary thyroid carcinoma;
  • Pennsylvania Cancer Registry;
  • Level of Evidence: 2b



To determine differences in disease characteristics between the thyroid cancer populations in the area around the Three Mile Island (TMI) nuclear power plant and the rest of the state of Pennsylvania.

Study Design:

Retrospective cross-sectional study.


Data from the Pennsylvania Cancer Registry from 1985 to 2008 were reviewed and information regarding age at diagnosis, sex, race, residential status, county of residence, thyroid pathology, thyroid surgery, and staging was recorded. Dauphin, Lancaster, and York counties were defined as the TMI area.


Records of 26,357 thyroid cancer patients were reviewed, with 2,611 patients within the TMI area. A higher proportion of papillary thyroid cancer (P < .001) and lower proportion of follicular thyroid cancer (P < .001) were noted in the TMI area population. Thyroid cancer cases from the TMI area were found to be more likely to be diagnosed before the age of 65 years (P < .001), be Pennsylvania born (P < .001), be well differentiated (P < .001), be <10 mm in size (P < .001), and be localized without spread (P < .001). Although the TMI area shows a higher incidence of thyroid cancer as compared to the rest of the state, this was not statistically significant.


The TMI population showed a higher proportion of papillary thyroid cancer and less aggressive pathology and earlier diagnosis compared to the rest of Pennsylvania. No statistically significant difference in thyroid cancer incidence was noted. Overall, the study does not show a clear link with more advanced thyroid cancer and proximity to the TMI nuclear reactors. Laryngoscope, 2012