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Open Access Highly Accessed Review

The thyroid gland and the process of aging; what is new?

Adam Gesing1*, Andrzej Lewiński23 and Małgorzata Karbownik-Lewińska12

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Oncological Endocrinology, Medical University of Lodz, Zeligowski St., No. 7/9, Lodz, 90-752, Poland

2 Department of Endocrinology and Metabolic Diseases, Polish Mother's Memorial Hospital – Research Institute, Rzgowska St., No. 281/289, Lodz 93-338, Poland

3 Department of Endocrinology and Metabolic Diseases, Medical University of Lodz, Rzgowska St., No. 281/289, Lodz, 93-338, Poland

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Thyroid Research 2012, 5:16  doi:10.1186/1756-6614-5-16

Published: 24 November 2012

Abstract

The endocrine system and particular endocrine organs, including the thyroid, undergo important functional changes during aging. The prevalence of thyroid disorders increases with age and numerous morphological and physiological changes of the thyroid gland during the process of aging are well-known. It is to be stressed that the clinical course of thyroid diseases in the elderly differs essentially from that observed in younger individuals, because symptoms are more subtle and are often attributed to normal aging. Subclinical hypo- and hyperthyroidism, as well as thyroid neoplasms, require special attention in elderly subjects. Intriguingly, decreased thyroid function, as well as thyrotropin (TSH) levels – progressively shifting to higher values with age – may contribute to the increased lifespan.

This short review focuses on recent findings concerning the alterations in thyroid function during aging, including these which may potentially lead to extended longevity, both in humans and animals.

Keywords:
Thyroid gland; Aging; Subclinical thyroid dysfunction; Thyroid cancer; Longevity