Health Beat

Health Beat: Thyroid cancer: Is your house killing you?

Health Beat: Thyroid cancer: Is your...

DURHAM, N.C. - Richard and Carol Belton enjoy reminiscing over family photos. Recently, Richard's life took a serious turn.

"They told me, you know, it was cancer," Richard said.

Richard had thyroid cancer.

"There's a virtual epidemic of thyroid cancer that is being seen in the United States," said Dr. Julie Ann Sosa, the chief of endocrine surgery at Duke University Medical Center.

Duke researchers wanted to know what was behind the spike, so they studied possible causes.

"The one that sort of fascinated us was potential exposures in the environment," Sosa continued.

They believe the culprit may be lurking right inside your home, in the form of flame-retardant chemicals.

"These chemicals, the flame retardants, are located in many different things in the home... in your sofa, in drapes, curtains," Sosa explained.

Sosa and her team wondered if these chemicals worked as endocrine disrupters, possibly altering the way the thyroid works, but first they had to measure these exposures. Researchers used a special vacuum in patients' homes, collecting dust to be tested in the lab. The results confirmed their suspicions.

"The levels were significantly higher in the patients with papillary thyroid cancer," Sosa stated.

Richard took part in the Duke study and hopes that one day it will lead to a cure.

"I just hope to find out what causes it so helps somebody else you know down the road," said Richard.

It's a road he and Carol will continue to walk together.

The study found the higher the level of exposure the patient had to flame retardants, the more aggressive the cancer. Sosa said the hope is research like this will someday spark industry-wide change, and companies will be compelled to use less harmful chemicals.


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