Research Article: The impact of BMI on clinical progress, response to treatment, and disease course in patients with differentiated thyroid cancer

Date Published: October 1, 2018

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Danuta Gąsior-Perczak, Iwona Pałyga, Monika Szymonek, Artur Kowalik, Agnieszka Walczyk, Janusz Kopczyński, Katarzyna Lizis-Kolus, Tomasz Trybek, Estera Mikina, Dorota Szyska-Skrobot, Klaudia Gadawska-Juszczyk, Stefan Hurej, Artur Szczodry, Anna Słuszniak, Janusz Słuszniak, Ryszard Mężyk, Stanisław Góźdź, Aldona Kowalska, Paula Soares.


Obesity is a serious health problem worldwide, particularly in developed countries. It is a risk factor for many diseases, including thyroid cancer. The relationship between obesity and prognostic factors of thyroid cancer is unclear.

We sought to ascertain the relationship between body mass index (BMI) and clinicopathological features increasing the risk of poor clinical course, treatment response, and clinical outcome in patients with differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC).

The study included 1181 patients with DTC (88% women and 12% men) treated at a single center from 2000 to 2016. BMI before surgery and aggressive clinicopathological features, according to the American Thyroid Initial Risk stratification system, were analyzed. The relationship between BMI and initial risk, treatment response, and final status of the disease was evaluated, incorporating the revised 2015 American Thyroid Association guidelines and the 8th edition of the American Joint Committee on Cancer/Tumor-Node-Metastasis (AJCC/TNM) staging system. Patients were stratified according to the World Health Organization classification of BMI. Statistical analysis was performed using univariate and multivariate logistic regression analysis.

Median follow-up was 7.7 years (1–16 years). There were no significant associations between BMI and extrathyroidal extension (microscopic and gross), cervical lymph node metastasis, or distant metastasis in univariate and multivariate analyses. BMI did not affect initial risk, treatment response or disease outcome. Obesity was more prevalent in men (p = 0.035) and in patients ≥55 years old (p = 0.001). There was no statistically significant relationship between BMI and more advanced TNM stage in patients ≤55 years old (stage I vs. stage II) (p = 0.266) or in patients >55 years old (stage I–II vs. III–IV) (p = 0.877).

Obesity is not associated with more aggressive clinicopathological features of thyroid cancer. Obesity is not a risk factor for progression to more advanced stages of disease, nor is it a prognostic factor for poorer treatment response and clinical outcome.

Partial Text

Differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC) is the most common endocrine cancer worldwide, and incidence of this cancer, especially of the papillary carcinoma (PTC) type, has been increasing for several decades [1–5]. To a large extent, this increase is related to better access to modern diagnostic imaging and biopsies, which contribute to improved detection of early stages of PTC that might have remained undiagnosed in the past [5–9]. However, some authors report an increase in the number of invasive, large, or small thyroid cancers [2, 10–12], which suggests a real increase in the incidence of thyroid cancer. Improvements in the quality of imaging studies alone cannot explain the increased incidence of DTC. Genetic and environmental factors, such as exposure to ionizing radiation and iodine consumption, as well as factors associated with lifestyle, are also associated with the increase in cancer incidence [13–15].

Obesity is a serious global health problem, especially in developed countries, and its prevalence is increasing. It is the cause of many chronic diseases and has been linked to some types of cancer [38–40]. It has been posited that thyroid cancer is related to obesity [18], and the rise in the number of new thyroid cancer cases in recent decades may be due in part to the increased prevalence of obesity [21, 41–43]. However, a causal link between obesity and thyroid cancer is not widely accepted. A retrospective study of fine-needle aspiration biopsies of 4849 thyroid nodules showed no relationship between obesity and cancer risk; the incidence of suspicious or malignant nodules did not differ between five BMI groups (normal body weight, overweight, and Grade 1–3 obesity) [44]. Similarly, no association was found between obesity and thyroid cancer in a study of people undergoing preventive screening for various risk factors for thyroid cancer [45], nor in one other cohort study [24, 46].




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