Thyroid cancer is rare in the pediatric population, but thyroid carcinomas occurring in children carry a unique set of clinical, pathologic, and molecular characteristics. In comparison to adults, children more often present with aggressive, advanced stage disease. This is at least in part due to the underlying biologic and molecular differences between pediatric and adult thyroid cancer. Specifically, papillary thyroid carcinoma (which accounts for approximately 90% of pediatric thyroid cancer) has a high rate of gene fusions which influence the histologic subtypes encountered in pediatric thyroid tumors, are associated with more extensive extrathyroidal disease, and offer unique options for targeted medical therapies. Differences are also seen in pediatric follicular thyroid cancer, although there are few studies of non-papillary pediatric thyroid tumors published in the literature due to their rarity, and in medullary carcinoma, which is most frequently diagnosed in the pediatric population in the setting of prophylactic thyroidectomies for known multiple endocrine neoplasia syndromes. The overall shift in the spectrum of histotypes and underlying molecular alterations common in pediatric thyroid cancer is important to recognize as it may directly influence diagnostic test selection and therapeutic recommendations.
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