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The Link Between Risk of Thyroid Cancer and Well Water

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The Link Between Risk of Thyroid Cancer and Well Water

The Link Between Risk of Thyroid Cancer and Well Water

Cancer of the thyroid is a dangerous condition that causes only a small number of symptoms easily confusable with a cold. The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland in the neck that when healthy is about the size of a quarter. It is responsible for making important hormones. The cause of thyroid cancer is unknown, but substances in water called nitrates may play a role in how you get thyroid cancer.

What is Thyroid Cancer

There are four main types of cancer in the thyroid. The types are follicular, medullary, papillary and anaplastic. Thyroid cancer interferes with the ability of the thyroid to produce crucial hormones and if left untreated can spread to the lymph nodes and other areas of the body.

Thyroid cancer can feel like you have a non-serious issue, like a sore throat or neck pain. Doctors can biopsy thyroid lumps to determine if they are cancerous. They can also ascertain the likelihood of a patient having cancer of the thyroid by discussing medical history and identifying risk factors. Although the cause of thyroid cancer has not yet been established, several risk factors for the disease are known.

Thyroid Cancer Symptoms

Thyroid cancer causes a few symptoms. Common thyroid cancer symptoms include:

Difficulty swallowing
Lumps in the neck
Orthyroid nodule
Pain in the neck
Swelling in the lymph nodes
Vocal changes

Thyroid Cancer Risk Factors

Certain people are at greater risk for developing cancer of the thyroid. People with a family history of thyroid cancer may inherit an altered RET gene that puts them at greater risk of medullary thyroid cancer. If you are exposed to high radiation levels you increase your risk of getting follicular or papillary thyroid cancer.

Other populations who are at greater risk for developing cancer of the thyroid include:

Females. Women in the U.S. are two to three times more likely to get thyroid cancer than men.

Older Adults. The majority of people who have cancer of the thyroid are over 40 years of age. Patients with anaplastic cancer typically are older than 65.

Caucasians. In the U.S., Caucasians develop thyroid cancer more often than African Americans.

People With An Iodine Deficiency. Iodine is critical for the thyroid to produce hormones. People who do not consume enough iodine are less protected from thyroid issues. This is rare in the U.S., but is not uncommon in developing nations.


In addition to the commonly recognized risk factors for thyroid cancer, research indicates that substances called nitrates are linked to thyroid disruption and an elevated risk of developing cancer of the thyroid. Nitrates are chemicals associated with chemical fertilizers. The chemicals are water soluable so when they are used on crops they easily get absorbed into plants and accumulate in groundwater. This groundwater is where wells and public water systems get their water supply. If you drink this water you increase your risk of thyroid cancer.

More than half of the people in the United States drinks well water, according to the U. S. Department of Agriculture. Well water is often high in nitrates. Drinking water with high nitrate levels is known to increase risk of thyroid cancer and hypertrophy of the thyroid, which is characterized by an enlarged thyroid gland. Nitrates are particularly dangerous for babies. It can lower oxygen levels in the blood and lead to a potentially fatal condition called blue-baby syndrome.

In the United States, the maximum contaminant level of nitrate in drinking water is 10 milligrams per liter. However, a study by the Department of Agriculture shows that women who consume as little as 5 milligrams of nitrates per liter of water are three times as likely to get thyroid cancer than women who drink fewer nitrates. Research also shows that women who consume more nitrate-containing foods are also three times more likely to develop cancer of the thyroid as well as hypothyroidism, a condition characterized by an under-active thyroid.

Lowering Risk of Cancer in the Thyroid

If you have been drinking well water or eating foods that are high in nitrates you may be wondering what you can do now to lessen your risk of thyroid cancer. Some research shows that certain supplements can help prevent and treat thyroid cancer. Most research supports the possibility of thyroid cancer prevention from supplements more so than treatment, but more research is needed.

Potentially beneficial supplements include:

Iodized Salt
Calcium D-glucurate
Licorice root extract
Green tea extract
Whey protein

Antioxidants may also be useful for preventing cancer in the thyroid and other areas. Antioxidants are substances that neutralize tissue-damaging free radicals. Certain foods, especially fruits, are high in antioxidants, but there are supplemental forms as well.

Supplements may also work to inhibit cancer cell growth and compliment conventional thyroid cancer treatment.

Other beneficial alternative therapies may include:

Chiropractic treatments

These treatments can decrease symptoms and work with conventional therapies. If you know someone who has had Thyroid Cancer ask them if they grew up drinking well water, it may surprise you. I personal have had 2 family members who grew up drinking well water on farms that developed thyroid cancers. Please feel free to post and opinions appreciated.

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  1. Dianne Edgett says:

    That is interesting to see. We just moved to our place in the country last summer and have well water as well. But over the years, I have learned to trust big government, big companies (especially pharmacies, & chemical fertilizers), and anything else large enough to be able to produce products that could have a potential to harm us years down the line. We’ve tested our water and is deemed “perfectly safe” by governmental standards which is fine, but for inside the house use, I still have it filtered and then filtered a second time as well. We are also starting to grow our herbs and veggies so we can control what goes into them and that means no fertilizers or pesticides, just natural things from nature. And, we learn as we go…

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