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Thyroid cancer (TC) is substantially more common in women than in men, pointing to a possible role of sex steroid hormones. We investigated the association between circulating sex steroid hormones, sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) and the risk of differentiated TC in men and women within the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and nutrition (EPIC) cohort. During follow-up, we identified 333 first primary incident cases of differentiated TC (152 in pre/peri-menopausal women, 111 in post-menopausal women, and 70 in men) and 706 cancer-free controls. Women taking exogenous hormones at blood donation were excluded. Plasma concentrations of testosterone, androstenedione, dehydroepiandrosterone, estradiol, estrone and progesterone (in pre-menopausal women only) were performed using liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry method. SHBG concentrations were measured by immunoassay. Odds ratios (ORs) were estimated using conditional logistic regression models adjusted for possible confounders. No significant associations were observed in men and postmenopausal women, while a borderline significant increase in differentiated TC risk was observed with increasing testosterone (adjusted OR T3 vs T1: 1.68, 95% CI: 0.96-2.92, ptrend  = .06) and androstenedione concentrations in pre/perimenopausal women (adjusted OR T3 vs T1: 1.78, 95% CI: 0.96-3.30, ptrend  = .06, respectively). A borderline decrease in risk was observed for the highest progesterone/estradiol ratio (adjusted OR T3 vs T1: 0.54, 95% CI: 0.28-1.05, ptrend  = .07). Overall, our results do not support a major role of circulating sex steroids in the etiology of differentiated TC in post-menopausal women and men but may suggest an involvement of altered sex steroid production in pre-menopausal women.

Original publication




Journal article


Int J Cancer

Publication Date



differentiated thyroid cancer, prospective study, sex steroids