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Risk of Recurrence in Differentiated Thyroid Cancer: A Population-Based Comparison of the 7th and 8th Editions of the American Joint Committee on Cancer Staging Systems

Tong Gan MD, Bin Huang DrPH, Quan Chen DrPH, Heather F. Sinner MD, Cortney Y. Lee MD, FACS, David A. Sloan MD, FACS, FRCSC, Reese W. Randle MD
Endocrine Tumors
Volume 26, Issue 9 / September , 2019



Differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC) survival is excellent, making recurrence a more clinically relevant prognosticator. We hypothesized that the new American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) 8th edition improves on the utility of the 7th edition in predicting the risk of recurrence in DTC.


A population-based retrospective review compared the risk of recurrence in patients with DTC according to the AJCC 7th and 8th editions using the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results-based Kentucky Cancer Registry from 2004 to 2012.


A total of 3248 patients with DTC were considered disease-free after treatment. Twenty percent of patients were downstaged from the 7th edition to the 8th edition. Most patients had stage I disease (80% in the 7th edition and 94% in the 8th edition). A total of 110 (3%) patients recurred after a median of 27 months. The risk of recurrence was significantly associated with stage for both editions (p < 0.001). In the 7th edition, there was poor differentiation between lower stages and better differentiation between higher stages (stage II hazard ratio [HR] 0.91, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.39–2.11; stage III HR 3.72, 95% CI 2.29–6.07; stage IV HR 11.66, 95% CI 7.10–19.15; all compared with stage I). The 8th edition better differentiated lower stages (stage II HR 4.06, 95% CI 2.38–6.93; stage III HR 13.07, 95% CI 5.30–32.22; stage IV 11.88, 95% CI 3.76–37.59; all compared with stage I).


The AJCC 8th edition better differentiates the risk of DTC recurrence for early stages of disease compared with the 7th edition. However, limitations remain, emphasizing the importance of adjunctive strategies to estimate the risk of recurrence.

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