Levothyroxine use and the risk of colorectal cancer: a large population-based case–control study

J. G. Kuiper, A. C. Fenneman, A. H. van der Spek, E. Rampanelli, M. Nieuwdorp, M. P. P. van Herk-Sukel, Vepp Lemmens, E. J. Kuipers, R. M. C. Herings, E. Fliers

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Objective: Whether an association between oral levothyroxine use, leading to supraphysiological exposure of the colon to thyroid hormones, and risk of colorectal cancer exists in humans is unclear. We therefore aimed to assess whether the use of levothyroxine is associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer in a linked cohort of pharmacy and cancer data. Design: Population-based matched case–control study. Methods: A total of 28,121 patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer between 1998 and 2014 were matched to 106,086 controls. Multivariable logistic regression was used to estimate the association between levothyroxine use and occurrence of colorectal cancer, adjusted for potential confounders. Results were stratified by gender, age, tumour subtype, and staging, as well as treatment duration and dosing. Results: A total of 1066 colorectal cancer patients (4%) and 4024 (4%) controls had used levothyroxine at any point before index date (adjusted odds ratio 0.95 (0.88–1.01)). Long-term use of levothyroxine was seen in 323 (30%) colorectal cancer patients and 1111 (28%) controls (adjusted odds ratio 1.00 (0.88–1.13)). Stratification by tumour subsite showed a borderline significant risk reduction of rectal cancer, while this was not seen for proximal colon cancer or distal colon cancer. There was no relationship with treatment duration or with levothyroxine dose. Conclusions: In this study, no reduced risk of colorectal cancer was seen in levothyroxine users. When stratifying by tumour subsite, a borderline significant risk reduction of rectal cancer was found and may warrant further research.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere210463
JournalEndocrine Connections
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022


  • Cancer case-control
  • Colorectal
  • Levothyroxine
  • Netherlands

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