Case Control Study

An Analysis of Clinical and Pathological Characteristics of 14431 Cases of Thyroid Carcinoma

Authors: {'first_name': 'Xiaomeng', 'last_name': 'Wang'},{'first_name': 'Na', 'last_name': 'Pan'},{'first_name': 'Jie', 'last_name': 'Cao'},{'first_name': 'Weijiao', 'last_name': 'Du'},{'first_name': 'Weihong', 'last_name': 'Zhang'},{'first_name': 'Shui', 'last_name': 'Cao'}


Objective: To retrospectively analyze the clinicopathological characteristics of thyroid cancer patients with respect to age, gender, benign lesions, and lymph node metastasis and to explore the clinicopathological features of multifocal and unifocal papillary thyroid carcinoma with cervical lymph node metastasis.

Methods: The clinicopathological data of 14,431 patients with thyroid cancer who underwent surgical treatment for the first time in the Department of Head and Neck Oncology of our hospital from January 2011 to December 2015 were collected, analyzed, and compared in terms of age, gender, pathological type, benign lesions, and lymph node metastasis.

Results: Among 14431cases, here were 3259 males and 11172 females, with a male-to-female ratio of 1:3.43. Patients aged 30–59 years accounted for 82.15%. The number of thyroid cancer cases showed an increasing trend year by year (P < 0.001), and papillary carcinoma was the most common (98.47%). Among 14,210 patients with papillary thyroid carcinoma, 4736 cases were in the multi-focus group and 9474 cases were in the single-focus group. Comparison of the pathological characteristics between the two groups showed that the multi-focus group had a higher probability of lymph node metastasis (P < 0.001). A single-focus combination of papillary thyroid carcinoma with benign lesions was more common (P < 0.001), and the difference was statistically significant. Among the cases of multifocal papillary thyroid carcinoma, there were 2812 cases in the multifocal papillary thyroid carcinoma group, and 1924 cases in the unilateral and/or isthmus group. The analysis showed that there were more males, younger patients, more patients with benign lesions, and a higher incidence of unilateral microcarcinoma in the unilateral and/or isthmus multifocal thyroid carcinoma group (P = 0.017). p < 0.001, p < 0.001, and p < 0.001, respectively). There were more patients with cervical lymph node metastasis in the bilateral multifocus group (p = 0.016), and the difference was statistically significant.

Conclusion: Multiple lesions are one of the clinical features of papillary thyroid carcinoma, which are more prone to cervical lymph node metastasis and more aggressive than single lesions.

Keywords: Pathological characteristics and incidence trend of thyroid carcinoma papillary thyroid carcinoma 
 Accepted on 29 Oct 2022            Submitted on 24 Sep 2022


Thyroid carcinoma(TC) is one of the most common cancers in head and neck cancer worldwide, affecting people in both developing and developed countries, with an incidence of 600,000 new cases diagnosed annually [1, 2, 3]. Since the 21st century, the incidence of TC has increased every year, owing to the development of the economy, improvement of medicine, changes in diet structure, ecological environment, and other factors, which have made TC become the fastest growing malignant tumor [4, 5]. Multiple studies have shown that isthmus PTC is more aggressive and is associated with poor prognosis, and its characteristics include multifocal, capsule invasion, extrathyroid extension and lymph node metastasis [6]. Early identification of patients with advanced or high-risk PTC who require more aggressive evaluation may help reduce morbidity and increase life expectancy. In this study, 14431 cases of TC patients diagnosed with TC, the clinical and pathological characteristics were analyzed to provide information for clinical diagnosis and treatment.

Materials and Methods [7]

Patients’ characteristics

We retrospectively analyzed the data of 14431 patients who underwent thyroidectomy between January 2011 and December 2015 from Tianjin Medical University Cancer Institute and Hospital. The exclusion criteria were as follows: 1) non-diagnostic or incomplete data, 2) recurrent cancer, and 3) metastatic thyroid cancer. The final subject population was composed of 3259 men and 11172 women (male to female ratio of 1: 3.43), with a mean age of 45.83 ± 10.83 years(range:6-85 years). Among the 14431 patients, papillary carcinoma accounted for 98.47%(14210 cases), follicular carcinoma accounted for 0.25%(36 cases), medullary carcinoma accounted for 0.73%(106 cases), poorly differentiated carcinoma accounted for 0.14%(21 cases), squamous cell carcinoma accounted for 0.11%(16 cases), malignant lymphoma accounted for 0.17%(25 cases), others accounted for 0.12%(17 cases).

Ethical approval

Name of body giving ethical approval:Medical Ethics Committee of Airport Hospital, Tianjin Cancer Hospital; Approval number: LWK-2022-0003.

Statistical analysis

The clinical and pathological characteristics were compared annually. For data analysis, we used SPSS20.0 for Microsoft Windows Software. Chi-square test or Chi-square trend test was used for comparison of count data, and (x±s) was used for measurement data. T-test or non-parametric test was used for comparison between groups. All statistical results were considered statistically significant with p < 0.05.


The pathological features of the patients are summarized in Table 1. 14431 patients fulfilled the inclusion criteria, including 14210 (98.47%) papillary carcinoma cases, 36 (0.25%) follicular carcinoma cases, 106 (0.73%) medullary carcinoma cases, 21 (0.14%) undifferentiated carcinoma cases, 16 (0.11%) squamous carcinoma cases, 25 (0.17%) malignant lymphomas cases, and 17 (0.12%) other cases. From 2011 to 2015, the number of surgical cases of TC increased annually (2 = 37.183, P < 0.000), the incidence and constituent ratio of papillary carcinoma showed an increased trend (2 = 41.239, P < 0.000). In contrast, the incidence of medullary cancer declined (2 = 11.667, P = 0.001) and that of follicular cancer was relatively stable (P = 0.075).

Table 1

Histological case types and proportion of thyroid cancer patients in total thyroid cancer from 2011 to 2015.


PATHOLOGICAL TYPES 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 TOTAL

Papillary carcinoma(%) 1268(97.09) 1824(97.70) 3171(98.42) 3288(98.59) 4659(99.11) 14210(98.47)

Follicular carcinoma(%) 3(0.23) 10(0.54) 7(0.22) 9(0.27) 7(0.15) 36(0.25)

Medullary carcinoma(%) 18(1.38) 18(0.96) 23(0.71) 25(0.75) 22(0.47) 106(0.73)

Undifferentiated carcinoma(%) 4(0.31) 0(0) 7(0.22) 8(0.24) 2(0.04) 21(0.15)

Squamous cell carcinoma (%) 4(0.31) 3(0.16) 4(0.12) 1(0.03) 4(0.09) 16(0.11)

Malignant lymphoma (%) 7(0.54) 7(0.37) 3(0.09) 4(0.12) 5(0.11) 25(0.17)

Other (%) 6(0.46) 5(0.27) 7(0.22) 0(0) 2(0.43) 17(0.12)

Total 1306 1867 3222 3335 4701 14431

The distributions of age and sex are shown in Table 2. The mean age was 45.83 ± 10.83 years (range: 6-85 years), and the sex ratio (Male:Female) was 1:3.43. Patients were divided into seven groups according to age, among which the 30–59 year-old group had the highest incidence of aging, accounting for 82.15%. There were also significant differences in the sex ratio among different groups(non-parametric test, P < 0.001).

Table 2

Incidence and composition ratio of thyroid cancer in different genders in different age groups.



<20 28 0.86 36 0.32 64 0.44 1:1.28

20–29 266 8.16 743 6.65 1009 6.99 1:2.79

30–39 680 20.87 2181 19.52 2861 19.82 1:3.21

40–49 1122 34.43 3981 35.63 5103 35.36 1:3.55

50–59 824 25.28 3082 27.58 3906 27.07 1:3.74

60–69 285 8.75 1001 8.96 1286 8.91 1:3.51

≥70 54 1.66 148 1.32 202 1.40 1:2.74

Total 3259 100 11172 100 14431 100 1:3.43

Lymph node metastasis

Among the 14210 patients with papillary thyoid carcinoma, 12792 patients had definite lymph node metastasis, among which 5514 patients had pathological definite lymph node metastasis, accounting for 38.8% of papillary thyoid carcinoma. The lymph node metastasis rate of patients under 20 years old was the highest, and the lymph node metastasis rate of papillary thyroid carcinoma decreased with age (P < 0.001). In addition, we found that age, gender, tumor size, lesion distribution, concurrent Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and nodular goiter were the influencing factors of lymph node metastasis. Multivariate logistic regression revealed that male sex, tumor size(>1 cm), and bilateral lobe of thyoid were independent risk factors for lymph node metastasis of papillary thyoid carcinoma (P < 0.001), while age was a protective factor for lymph node metastasis of papillary thyoid carcinoma. The older the age, the lower the lymph node metastasis rate (P < 0.001) (Table 3).

Table 3

The lymph node metastasis of papillary thyroid carcinoma in different groups.




    ≦45 3040 44.18 126.103 0.000

    >45 2474 33.76


    male 1502 52.78 139.587 0.000

    female 4012 40.34

Tumor size

    ≦1 2247 33.62 513.777 0.000

    >1 3267 53.49

Cancer distribution

Unilateral or combined isthmus 4210 41.14 70.692 0.000

On both sides 1304 50.94

concurrent with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis

    Yes 292 37.34 11.287 0.001

    no 5222 43.48

concurrent with nodular goiter

    Yes 1176 40.55 9.969 0.002

    no 4338 43.85

Concurrent with benign cases

Among the 14210 patients with papillary thyroid carcinoma, 4736 patients in the multi-lesion group and 9474 patients in the single-lesion group (Table 4). It was found to have a higher probability of lymph node metastasis in the multi-lesion group (2 = 416.819, P < 0.001) by comparing the pathological characteristics of the two groups (Table 5). There were more cases of single lesion combination with benign lesions in papillary thyroid carcinoma (2 = 416.819, P < 0.001), and the difference was statistically significant (P < 0.001) (Table 6).

Table 4

Papillary carcinoma with benign disease at different time periods.


2011 2012 2013 2014 2015

Hashimoto thyroiditis 65 54 185 208 309 821

Nodular goiter 420 509 813 789 763 3294

Thyroid adenoma 38 107 154 118 315 732

Lymphocytic thyroiditis 10 30 13 8 9 70

Subacute thyroiditis 1 3 5 3 6 18

Benigh lesions(>1) 20 22 17 20 29 108

Other thyroid nodules 1 2 0 1 3 7

Total 555 727 1187 1147 1434 5050

Table 5

Comparison of papillary thyroid carcinoma with multiple lesions and with single lesion.



    Male 2127 1037 0.552 0.457

    Female 7347 3698


    ≦45 4616 2265 1.019 0.313

    >45 4858 2471

With benign lesions

    Yes 3916 (40.18%) 1134 (23.94%) 416.819 0.000

    No 5558 3602

Cervical lymph node metastasis

    Yes 3382 (39.91%) 2132 (49.42%) 105.859 0.000

    No 5096 2182

Table 6

Comparison of unilateral and bilateral multifocal thyroid papillary carcinoma.



    Male 584 (20.77%) 454 (23.60%) 5.672 0.017

    Female 2228 1470


    ≦45 1384 (49.22%) 1046 (54.37%) 12.120 0.000

    >45 1428 878

With benign lesions

    Yes 311 (11.06%) 823 (42.78%) 630.993 0.000

    No 2501 1101

Cervical lymph node metastasis

    Yes 1305 (50.94%) 827 (47.20%) 5.802 0.016

    No 1257 925

Simple small

    Yes 1271 (45.20%) 1153 (59.93%) 99.175 0.000

    No 1541 771

In the multifocal cases of papillary thyroid carcinoma, the bilateral multifocal group was compared with the unilateral and/or isthmus multifocal group (Table 6). In the multifocal cases of papillary thyroid carcinoma, 2812 cases were bilateral and 1924 cases were unilateral and/or isthmus. The analysis and comparison showed that the unilateral and/or isthmus multi-lesion group had more males, younger age, more benign lesions, and higher incidence of unilateral microcarcinoma (P = 0.017, P < 0.001, P < 0.001, P < 0.001), and the differences were statistically significant. There were more patients with cervical lymph node metastasis in bilateral multi-lesion group (2 = 5.802, P = 0.016).


Thyroid cancer(TC) is the most common endocrine tumor among head and neck malignant tumors [8]. Studies have shown that since 2004, thyroid cancer patients in the United States have been increasing at an annual rate of 6.6% for females and 5.5% for males, becoming the fastest growing malignant tumor in the United States [9, 10]. In a study on the incidence of head and neck cancer inpatients in China from 1993 to 2011, it was found that thyroid cancer increased at an average annual rate of 25.3%, which was the tumor with the fastest increase in incidence. This study analyzed the clinicopathological data of 11431 patients with thyroid cancer who underwent surgical resection for the first time in Tianjin Medical University Cancer Institute and Hospital in the past 5 years. It showed that the number of patients undergoing surgical treatment showed an increasing trend year by year (P < 0.001), and papillary cancer showed an increasing trend similar to the overall trend (P < 0.001). The incidence of other pathological types was relatively stable or decreased. At the same time, we found that the incidence of follicular carcinoma and Tianjin Medical University Cancer Institute and Hospital were much lower than the data frequently cited in many literatures [11]. This may be due to the significant increase in the incidence of papillary thyroid cancer in the past 20 years, resulting in a decrease in the proportion of follicular cancer and medullary cancer in the overall thyroid cancer. In addition, we also found that the incidence of medullary carcinoma was higher than that of follicular carcinoma (P < 0.05), which was different from the results of most studies [12, 13], which may be related to RET proto-oncogene mutation caused by severe environmental pollution and ionizing radiation, or due to regional differences. The specific mechanism needs to be further studied.

Papillary thyroid cancer is the most common pathology of TC, and multicentricity is one of its clinical features [14, 15]. We found that 33.33% of patients were multifocal with bilateral lobe, which is nearly 1.5 times that of unilateral lobe involvement, which was similar to domestic and foreign reports [16, 17]. Multifocal patients were more likely to have cervical lymph node metastasis, especially those with bilateral lobes. Papillary thyroid cancer often develops along with benign thyroid diseases, especially nodular goiter and Hashimoto thyroiditis [18]. Hashimoto thyroiditis is a common autoimmune thyroid disease [19, 20]. Although the immediate relationship between papillary thyroid carcinoma and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is unclear, many scholars have hypothesized that the occurrence of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis could stimulate hyperplasia of the thyroid follicular epithelium due to the loss of autoimmune mechanisms, which may lead to disorder and cancerous cell growth [21, 22, 23]. Here, we found that papillary carcinoma combined with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis increased annually, which may contribute to the increase in papillary thyroid cancer. However, this mechanism requires further investigation.

In our study, we found that papillary thyroid carcinoma in younger patients tended to have lymph node metastasis (P < 0.001). This may be related to hormone secretion and rapid metabolism [24]. In addition, male sex, tumor size (>1 cm), and tumor presence in the contralateral lobe were independent risk factors for lymph node metastasis. Therefore, more caution should be exercised in these patients during the evaluation of the lymph nodes.

Currently, the etiology of this increase in TC is unclear. Many scholars believe that the improvement of inspection technology, popularization of color Doppler ultrasound, application of high-resolution high-frequency probes, and improvement of health consciousness are improving the detection rate of asymptomatic and subclinical tumor [25, 26]. Some studies have shown that ionizing radiation is also a risk factor for an increase in thyroid cancer [27, 28]. Similarly, some studies have suggested that it may also be related to diet structure, lifestyle, environmental pollution, and autoimmunity [29]. However, these findings still lack mechanistic research, and the causes of the rising incidence remain controversial [30].


In conclusion, the findings of this retrospective analysis indicate that the number of thyroid carcinomas treated in our hospital has increased annually, with a prominent increase in PTC. The incidence in women was significantly higher than that in men and occurred mostly in patients aged 30–59 years. Thyroid malignancies often coexist with benign diseases. Male age, tumor size >1 cm, and bilateral tumors are risk factors for PTC lymph node metastasis. Our subsequent study will collect the sequencing data of the samples to further investigate the indicators affecting the prognosis of thyroid cancer. In our next study, it is worthwhile to further explore and study the clinical and pathological characteristics of thyroid cancer, so as to provide information for clinical diagnosis and treatment, and indicate the prognosis.

Ethics and Consent

The patient provided informed consent for the publication of this case. Data are available on request from the authors.

Competing Interests

The authors have no competing interests to declare.

Author Contributions

The respective role of each author:

Xiaomeng Wang: Collect the data and write the initial draft, Na Pan, Jie Cao and Weijiao Du visualization/data presentation. Weihong Zhang: Data curation. Shui Cao:critical review, commentary or revision–including pre-or post publication stages.

First author: Xiaomeng Wang, MS, E-mail:

Co-First author: Na Pan.

Peer Review

Provenance and peer review. Not commissioned, externally peer-reviewed.


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