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Differentiated thyroid cancer is the most common endocrine malignancy and the incidence is increasing rapidly worldwide. Appropriate diagnosis and post-treatment monitoring of patients with thyroid tumours is critical. Fine needle aspiration cytology remains the gold standard for diagnosing thyroid cancer and whilst there have been significant refinements to this technique, diagnostic surgery is often required for patients suspected to have malignancy. Serum thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) is higher in patients with malignant thyroid nodules compared to those with benign disease, and TSH is proportionally increased in more aggressive tumours. Importantly, we have shown that the pre-operative serum TSH concentration independently predicts the presence of malignancy in subjects presenting with thyroid nodules. Establishing the use of TSH measurements in algorithms identifying high risk thyroid nodules in routine clinical practice represents an exciting, cost-efficient and non-invasive approach to optimise thyroid cancer diagnosis. Binding of TSH to receptors on thyrocytes stimulates a number of growth promoting pathways both in normal and malignant thyroid cells and TSH suppression with high doses of levothyroxine is routinely used following thyroidectomy in order to prevent cancer recurrence, especially in high risk tumours. This review examines the relationship between serum TSH and thyroid cancer and reflects on the clinical potential of TSH measurements in diagnosis and disease monitoring.
- Thyroid cancer