Risk factors for thyroid cancer remain largely unknown except for ionizing radiation exposure during childhood and a history of benign thyroid nodules. Because thyroid nodules are more common than thyroid cancers and are associated with thyroid cancer risk, we evaluated several polymorphisms potentially relevant to thyroid tumors and assessed interaction with ionizing radiation exposure to the thyroid gland. Thyroid nodules were detected in 1998 by ultrasound screening of 2997 persons who lived near the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site in Kazakhstan when they were children (1949-1962). Cases with thyroid nodules (n = 907) were frequency matched (1:1) to those without nodules by ethnicity (Kazakh or Russian), gender and age at screening. Thyroid gland radiation doses were estimated from fallout deposition patterns, residence history and diet. We analyzed 23 polymorphisms in 13 genes and assessed interaction with ionizing radiation exposure using likelihood ratio tests (LRT). Elevated thyroid nodule risks were associated with the minor alleles of RET S836S (rs1800862, P = 0.03) and GFRA1 -193C>G (rs not assigned, P = 0.05) and decreased risk with XRCC1 R194W (rs1799782, P trend = 0.03) and TGFBI T263I (rs1800472, P = 0.009). Similar patterns of association were observed for a small number of papillary thyroid cancers (n = 25). Ionizing radiation exposure to the thyroid gland was associated with significantly increased risk of thyroid nodules (age and gender adjusted excess odds ratio/Gy = 0.30, 95% CI 0.05-0.56), with evidence for interaction by genotype found for XRCC1 R194W (LRT P value = 0.02). Polymorphisms in RET signaling, DNA repair and proliferation genes may be related to risk of thyroid nodules, consistent with some previous reports on thyroid cancer. Borderline support for gene-radiation interaction was found for a variant in XRCC1, a key base excision repair protein. Other pathways such as genes in double-strand break repair, apoptosis and genes related to proliferation should also be pursued.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging