Endocrine Community
Get answers. Share advice. Learn More

Papillary Thyroid Cancer Causes

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:

  • RET/PTC gene: Mutations of the RET/PTC gene are apparent in 10% to 30% of papillary thyroid cancer patients, though they more common in children or those who've been exposed to radiation.1
  • BRAF gene: Mutations of the BRAF gene are found in 30% to 70% of patients. Unlike the RET mutation, BRAF mutations are less common in children and those who've been exposed to radiation. Researchers believe that BRAF mutations produce more aggressive cancers that often metastasize (spread to other parts of the body).1

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.

Continue Reading
Papillary Thyroid Cancer Risk Factors