Thyroid Cancer Facts and Statistics: What You Need to Know

Thyroid cancer is the 12th most common cancer in the United States. Healthcare providers often find it early enough that it can be treated with a positive outcome. It has a survival rate of over 98%.

Thyroid cancer is a type of growth that starts in the thyroid (located in the neck) but can spread throughout the body. Thyroid cancer was expected to be 2.3% of all new cancer cases in the United States in 2022 but only 0.4% of cancer deaths. It’s three times more common in women than in men.

This article highlights important facts and statistics you should know about the condition.

Person feeling their throat for signs of thyroid cancer

PORNCHAI SODA / Getty Images

Thyroid Cancer Overview

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck that makes hormones. It wraps around the windpipe, below the Adam’s apple, and has two lobes on either side. These hormones regulate your body’s daily functions, including heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and metabolism.

Thyroid cancer starts when cells in the thyroid begin to grow out of control. People with thyroid cancer may find a lump, nodule, or swelling in their neck; upon imaging, the healthcare provider will find a tumor.

Three types of thyroid cancer are the most common:

How Common Is Thyroid Cancer?

Out of every 100,000 people, 14.6 will be diagnosed with thyroid cancer every year, according to the National Cancer Institute's data from 2015 to 2019. About 1 out of every 200,000 people in the United States will die from it each year.

The National Cancer Institute estimated that there would be around 43,800 new cases of thyroid cancer in 2022. That’s 2.3% of all new cancer cases. Estimates put deaths caused by thyroid cancer at approximately 2,230 in 2022 (only 0.4% of cancer deaths).

About 1.2% of people will be diagnosed with thyroid cancer during their lives. Almost 1 million people (915,664) were living with thyroid cancer in 2019, the institute's data reported.

New thyroid cancer diagnoses increased steadily between the 1990s and 2010, when the average number of new cases leveled off. This increase was likely due to improved detection of thyroid cancer from new imaging procedures.

Death rates rose slightly between 2009 and 2018 but have stayed low, even as healthcare providers found more cancers.

Thyroid Cancer by Ethnicity and Sex

Women are three times more likely to get thyroid cancer than men. It is also more common in White and non-Hispanic Asian and Pacific Islander populations.

Thyroid Cancer in Males by Ethnicity per 100,000
Ethnicity New Cases Deaths
All Races 7.7 0.5
Non-Hispanic White 8.9 0.5
Non-Hispanic Black 3.8 0.4
Non-Hispanic Asian /Pacific Islander 7.9 0.5
Non-Hispanic American Indian / Alaska Native 5.2 0.5
Hispanic 6.0 0.6
The table shows new cases of and deaths from thyroid cancer per 100,000 males, broken down by ethnicity. Data from the National Cancer Institute SEER database averaged from 2015 to 2019.
Thyroid Cancer in Females by Ethnicity per 100,000
Ethnicity New Cases Deaths
All Races 21.3 0.5
Non-Hispanic White 22.7 0.4
Non-Hispanic Black 12.8 0.5
Non-Hispanic Asian/Pacific Islander 23.0 0.7
Non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native 21.0 0.5
Hispanic 21.6 0.7
The table shows new cases of and deaths from thyroid cancer per 100,000 females, broken down by ethnicity. Data from National Cancer Institute SEER database averaged over the years 2015 to 2019.

Thyroid Cancer by Age

Healthcare providers often diagnose thyroid cancer during middle age—between 45 and 64. The median age at diagnosis is 51. It is more deadly the older you get. The percentage of deaths from thyroid cancer is highest between 75 and 84, and the median age at death from thyroid cancer is 74.

Percent of Thyroid Cancer New Cases and Deaths by Age
Age Percent of New Cases Percent of Deaths
Under 20 2.0% 0.0%
20 to 34 16.2% 0.7%
35 to 44 18.3% 1.8%
45 to 54 21.1% 6.7%
55 to 64 21.0% 17.0%
65 to 74 14.7% 26.5%
75 to 84 5.5% 28.3%
Over 84 1.3% 18.9%
The table shows how many of the new cases and deaths from thyroid cancer fall into each age group. Data from the National Cancer Institute SEER database averaged from 2015 to 2019.

Causes of Thyroid Cancer and Risk Factors

Most cases of thyroid cancer have no apparent cause. But there are a few significant factors that increase someone’s risk for thyroid cancer:

  • Sex: Females are more likely to develop thyroid cancer. 
  • Age: Thyroid cancer is more common in middle age. 
  • Hereditary conditions: Genetic syndromes can increase the risk of thyroid cancer. 
  • Family history: If others in your family develop thyroid cancer, you are at a higher risk. 
  • Radiation exposure: Radiation from treatments to the head or neck during childhood, excessive imaging tests, or radioactive fallout can increase the risk.
  • Low iodine: Iodine in the diet has a protective effect against thyroid cancer. 

Hereditary conditions that increase your risk of developing thyroid cancer include:

What Are the Mortality Rates for Thyroid Cancer?

Almost all people diagnosed with thyroid cancer will live more than five years from being diagnosed. Thyroid cancer’s five-year relative survival rate is 98.4%, so only about 1.6% of people diagnosed with thyroid cancer die from it within five years.

If healthcare providers catch thyroid cancer early, before it has spread from the thyroid, the survival rate is even higher—99.9%. Survival rates are high (98.3%) even if it has spread to the region's lymph nodes or other tissues.

The survival rate starts to drop if the thyroid cancer has already metastasized (spread) to distant locations. Thyroid cancer diagnosed after it has spread to other organs has a survival rate of 53.5%. Thankfully, only about 3% of thyroid cancers develop this much before being discovered.

The rate of new cases and deaths has been steady since 2010. Before 2010 the rate of new cases had been increasing steadily since the 1990s—almost tripling the case rate over two decades.

What Is a Survival Rate?

The survival rate of a disease is typically the percentage of people who survive for a specified amount of time. But it can be presented in several different ways. It does not predict an individual's prognosis, as that will be based on several factors.

Screening and Early Detection of Thyroid Cancer

In most cases, there is no known cause or risk factor in developing thyroid cancer. Only people with an increased risk of thyroid cancer due to a genetic condition are monitored for tumors in the thyroid using imaging and blood tests.

If a healthcare provider discovers a tumor or precancerous growth, they'll often remove the thyroid. The surgeon can even remove it preventatively in cases of medullary thyroid cancer, which can be fatal.


Thyroid cancer is the 12th most common cancer in the United States. It affects females more than males and is diagnosed in people of White and Asian/Pacific Islander descent more than other ethnicities. This cancer often doesn’t have a specific cause and can’t be prevented. 

There is no screening program for thyroid cancer. Still, survival rates are very good for people with thyroid cancer, with 98.4% surviving more than five years after their cancer diagnosis. 

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Cancer Institute. Cancer stat facts: thyroid cancer.

  2. American Cancer Society. Key statistics for thyroid cancer

  3. American Cancer Society. What is thyroid cancer?

  4. American Cancer Society. Key statistics for thyroid cancer.

  5. American Cancer Society. Thyroid cancer risk factors

  6. American Cancer Society. Can thyroid cancer be prevented? 

By Jennifer Welsh
Jennifer Welsh is a Connecticut-based science writer and editor with over ten years of experience under her belt. She’s previously worked and written for WIRED Science, The Scientist, Discover Magazine, LiveScience, and Business Insider.