Understanding how comorbidities contribute to death in cancer patients is becoming an important topic. The present study assessed the role of comorbidities in overall mortality and causes of death in patients with differentiated thyroid carcinoma (DTC). This retrospective cohort study included 2070 patients who underwent thyroidectomy for DTC at a single institution between 2002 and 2005. Probabilities of overall, DTC-specific and other-cause death were examined according to the number of comorbidities, with consideration for competing events. The estimated 15-year cumulative incidences of overall, DTC-specific, and other-cause death were 7.3%, 1.6%, and 5.7%, respectively. Taking the group without comorbidities as a reference, we found that the group with 1–2 comorbidities and the group with ≥3 comorbidities had higher probabilities of other-cause death (subhazard ratios = 2.48 and 9.41, respectively; p < 0.01) and consequently shorter overall survival (hazard ratio = 1.95 and 5.33, respectively; p < 0.01), with adjustment for age, sex, and tumor-node-metastasis classification. In contrast, the probability of DTC-specific death was reduced in patients with ≥3 comorbidities (subhazard ratio = 6.81e-10, p < 0.01). For overall death, the relative proportion of death from DTC reduced when the number of comorbidities increased, and DTC-specific death was not observed in patients with ≥3 comorbidities. Our results show that death from DTC itself accounted for only a fraction of the overall deaths among patients who underwent surgery for DTC. Comorbidities increased overall mortality by increasing the probability of other-cause death. Patients with multiple comorbidities had a low probability of dying from DTC because they died earlier from comorbidities.
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