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Genetic Markers May Indicate Mortality Risk in Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer is one of the rarer forms of this disease in the United States, but it remains a very big concern for the estimated 56,000 Americans who will be diagnosed in the coming year. With roughly 2,000 deaths attributed annually to this cause, understanding what factors might increase mortality risks is critical for helping doctors and patients more successfully battle this disease. A recent study has shed light on particular genetic mutations that may signal an elevated morality risk.

The study in question focused in on two specific genetic markers – BRAF V600E and TERT. Researchers found that patients who had both mutations versus only one were at higher risk for morality than patients who presented with only one of the mutations. Patients with neither mutation had a much lower overall morality rate.

The study followed more than 1,000 patients over the course of nearly 90 months. Researchers found that only four of nearly 630 patients without either marker died as a result of papillary thyroid cancer. The number of patients who died was also slight in cases where one or the other marker was found. When patients presented with both markers, however, the mortality rate rose to nearly 23 percent.

The full implications of the study are not yet clear, but the results may help clinicians better target care in higher mortality risk cases. The insights provided show that the two particular mutations when found together do dramatically increase the risk of mortality.

People who are concerned about thyroid cancer and their risks are urged to talk to their healthcare providers. Risk factors for this disease include smoking, family history and age. Doctors will be able to help patients assess their personal risks and can recommend measures that may help lower them. Like many forms of cancer, thyroid cancer can often be treated highly successfully if detected early. And, as evidenced by the numbers, the vast majority of patients diagnosed with this form of the disease are successfully treated. The recent study may someday help improve the survival rate even more.

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