Epidemiological trends of iodine-related thyroid disorders: an example from Slovenia

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The epidemiology of thyroid disorders is significantly associated with iodine supply. In 1999, Slovenia increased iodine content in kitchen salt from 10 mg to 25 mg of potassium iodide per kg of salt. According to the WHO criteria, Slovenia shifted from a mildly iodine-deficient country to a country with adequate iodine intake. Ten years after the increase in iodine intake, the incidence of diffuse goitre and thyroid autonomy decreased. Now patients with diffuse goitre and thyroid autonomy reach older age than the patients before the increase in iodine intake. In addition, patients with thyroid autonomy are less frequently hyperthyroid than ten years ago and iodine-induced hyperthyroidism is less severe. The incidence of highly malignant thyroid carcinoma has also dropped. However, the incidence of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis increased, most probably in genetically predisposed individuals. Over the last ten years, many animal and in vitro studies evaluated the effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC) on various aspects of the thyroid function. They mostly studied the effects of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dioxins, brominated flame retardants, phthalates, bisphenol A, perfluorinated chemicals, and perchlorate. However, human studies on the effects of EDCs on the thyroid function are very scarce, especially the long-term ones. What they do suggest is that PCBs and dioxins interfere with the transport of thyroid hormones and adversely affect the thyroid function. Many authors agree that iodine deficiency predisposes the thyroid gland to harmful effects of EDCs. Therefore the effects of EDCs in iodine-deficient areas could be more severe than in areas with adequate iodine intake.

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