Genetic and a large number of environmental non-iodine-related factors play a role in the cause of nodular goitre. Most evidence for the influence of genetic and environmental factors in the cause of goitre is from cross-sectional, population-based studies. Only a few studies have included prospective data on risk factors for nodular goitre, although few prospective data are available on the effect of iodine and tobacco smoking on goitre development. Goitre is not one single phenotype. Many epidemiological studies do not distinguish diffuse from nodular goitre, as the investigated parameter is often thyroid volume or frequency with increased thyroid volume. Moreover, information on the presence and effect of gene-environment, gene-gene, and environment-environment effect modifications is limited. Thus, firm conclusions about the relative contributions and causality of the investigated risk factors should be made with caution. Smoking seems to be an established risk factor for nodular goitre, possibly with effect modification from iodine intake, as the risk associated with smoking is smaller or absent in areas with sufficient iodine intake. The use of oral contraceptives might have protective effects against goitre, and childbirth is an increased risk factor for goitre in areas with non-optimal iodine intake. Insulin resistance is a recently investigated risk factor, and the risk of goitre may be reversible with metformin treatment. Iodine remains the major environmental risk factor for nodular goitre.
Best Practice and Research: Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 2014, Vol 28, Issue 4, p. 495-506