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Thyroid cancer in Luxembourg: a national population-based data report (1983–1999)

René Scheiden14*, Marc Keipes2, Carlo Bock3, Walter Dippel1, Nelly Kieffer4 and Catherine Capesius4

Author Affiliations

1 Division of pathology, National Health Laboratory, Luxembourg

2 Department of endocrinology, Clinique Ste Thérèse, Luxembourg

3 Department of oncology, Clinique Ste Thérèse, Luxembourg

4 Morphologic Tumour Registry, National Health Laboratory, Luxembourg

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BMC Cancer 2006, 6:102  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-6-102

Published: 24 April 2006



Twenty years after the nuclear accident in Chernobyl (Eastern Europe), there is still a controversial debate concerning a possible effect of the radioactive iodines, especially I-131, on the increase of thyroid carcinomas (TCs) in Western Europe. Time trends in incidence rates of TC in Luxembourg in comparison with other European countries and its descriptive epidemiology were investigated.


The population-based data of the national Morphologic Tumour Registry collecting new thyroid cancers diagnosed between 1983 and 1999 at a nation-wide level in the central division of pathology were reviewed and focused on incidence rates of TC. Data from 1990 to 1999 were used to evaluate the distribution by gender, age, histological type, tumour size and the outcome.


Out of 310 new thyroid carcinomas diagnosed between 1990 and 1999, 304 differentiated carcinomas (A: 80% papillary; B: 14.5% follicular; C: 3.5% medullary) and 6 anaplastic/undifferentiated TCs (D: 2%) were evaluated. The M/F-ratio was 1:3.2, the mean age 48.3 years (range: 13–92). The overall age-standardized (world population) incidence rates over the two 5-year periods 1990–1994 and 1995–1999 increased from 7.4 per 100,000 to 10.1 per 100,000 in females, from 2.3 per 100,000 to 3.6 per 100,000 in males. Only 3 patients were children or adolescents (1%), the majority of the patients (50%) were between 45 and 69 years of age. The percentage of microcarcinomas (<1 cm) was A: 46.4%, (115/248); B: 13.3%, (6/45); C: 27.3%, (3/11). The unexpected increase of TCs in 1997 was mainly due to the rise in the number of microcarcinomas. The observed 5-year survival rates for both genders were A: 96.0+/-2%; B: 88.9%; C: 90.9%; D: 0%. Prognosis was good in younger patients, worse in males and elderly, and extremely poor for undifferentiated TCs.


The increasing incidence rates of TC, especially of the papillary type, seem mainly due to a rise in diagnosed microcarcinomas due to some extent to a change in histologic criteria and to more efficient diagnostic tools. This rise appears to be independent of the number of surgical treatments, the immigration rate, and the Chernobyl fallout as the incidence of TC in children remained stable.