Thyroid Disorders

Treating mild hypothyroidism: Benefits still uncertain

More than 10 million adults in the US have hypothyroidism — when the thyroid gland fails to produce enough thyroid hormone to meet the body’s needs — but the vast majority of these cases are considered mild. Whether or not to treat mild hypothyroidism is an ongoing debate. There is a possible link between mild hypothyroidism and coronary artery disease, but researchers found that treating it in older people did not provide any benefit.

Is there a role for surgery in treating Hashimoto’s thyroiditis?

A small European study compared standard treatment for the autoimmune condition Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (thyroid medication) with surgery to remove the thyroid. Those who had surgery saw significant improvement.

Need to check your thyroid? Maybe not

People who think they have hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) may expect or request a wide range of blood tests to confirm diagnosis. Yet a much simpler, less costly test can identify hypothyroidism in almost everyone.

Thyroid disease and breast cancer: Is there a link?

Mallika Marshall, MD

Contributing Editor

Researchers have wondered for a long time whether there might be a link between excess thyroid hormone and an increased risk of breast cancer. High levels of thyroid hormone have been shown to mimic estrogen, which fuels many breast cancers. A new study has suggested that there may indeed be a link — but it’s important to put the results into context.

For borderline underactive thyroid, drug therapy isn’t always necessary

A slowdown in the output of the thyroid gland can cause many problems, ranging from extreme fatigue and depression to intolerance to cold, weight gain, dry skin, and dry hair. Millions of Americans have an underactive thyroid, a condition known as hypothyroidism. The symptoms can usually be controlled with a daily dose of synthetic thyroid hormone called levothyroxine. Who actually benefits from taking levothyroxine is being called into question. New evidence suggests that many people with borderline hypothyroidism may be taking this medication unnecessarily.

Potassium iodide pills and prevention of thyroid cancer from Japanese nuclear power plant

Peter Wehrwein

Contributor, Harvard Health

Japanese officials are preparing to distribute potassium iodide pills to people living near the nuclear power plants crippled by last week’s earthquake. Harvard Health Letter editor Peter Wehrwein explains what these pills do and who needs them.

Thyroid cancer a hazard from radioactive iodine emitted by Japan’s failing nuclear power plants


Former Executive Editor, Harvard Health

The steam emitted by Japan’s failing nuclear reactors contains radioactive iodine-131. People living near the reactors can get substantial doses of iodine-131 by breathing the vapor from the reactors or ingesting iodine-131 from food or water. It accumulates in the thyroid gland, and significantly increases the risk of developing thyroid cancer.