Papillary Thyroid Cancer Causes

Written by Kelly M. Rehan
Reviewed by Eren Berber MD

As with all types of thyroid cancer, papillary thyroid cancer (also known as papillary thyroid carcinoma) has no known cause. Though researchers believe gene mutations are involved in papillary thyroid cancer's development, they don't often know why these genetic changes occur.

Thyroid cells become cancerous when genetic abnormalities cause them to mutate. These abnormalities are often caused by environmental factors (such as radiation exposure). In fewer cases, gene abnormalities may be inherited. But often, it's not understood why they occur.

These gene mutations make cells grow and multiply. And unlike healthy cells, these abnormal cells do not die. As these cells grow in number, they eventually form a tumor. From there, they can also attack healthy tissues in other parts of the body.

Researchers believe that changes in certain genes cause thyroid cells to abnormally develop and divide, and this may cause the development of papillary thyroid cancer. There are several genes that have been connected to this form of thyroid cancer:

Scientists have also associated changes in the NTRK1 and MET genes with papillary thyroid cancer. But more research needs to be conducted to determine what triggers these mutations, and if they may cause papillary thyroid carcinoma.




  1. Do We Know What Causes Thyroid Cancer? Cancer Reference Information on The American Cancer Society Web site. Available at: May 14, 2009. Accessed February 16, 2010.

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