Goiter development depends on genetic and environmental factors. The major environmental factor is iodine intake, whereas diverging results have been published concerning the association between smoking and goiter.
A comparable, cross-sectional study was performed of patients from 2 areas in Denmark with mild and moderate iodine deficiency. A random sample of women and men in selected age groups from the general community was investigated; 4649 subjects participated. Smoking habits were investigated with questionnaires and interviews. Ultrasonography and clinical examination of the thyroid were performed, serum thyroglobulin was measured, and iodine concentration in spot urine samples was analyzed. Data were analyzed in linear models and logistic regression analyses.
Serum thyroglobulin level and thyroid volume at ultrasonography were positively associated with smoking habits (P<.001); the association was stronger in the area with the lowest iodine intake (interaction: P<.001 for thyroglobulin, P = .04 for thyroid volume). A positive association with smoking was also found for thyroid enlargement (odds ratio, 2.9; 95% confidence interval, 2.2-3.7) and palpable goiter (odds ratio, 3.1; 95% confidence interval, 1.6-5.8). Ex-smokers had a goiter prevalence close to that of never smokers. The fraction of goiter cases attributable to smoking was 49% (95% confidence interval, 29%-65%).
Thyroid volume and goiter prevalence were closely associated with smoking habits, with the strongest association being found in the area with the most pronounced iodine deficiency. This may have implications for future goiter prevalences in Third World countries, with their increasing use of tobacco. Half of goiter cases in this population could be ascribed to smoking.