SANTA MONICA, Calif. (KABC) -- Recent research shows that cases of thyroid cancer, especially in young women, are on the rise. In some cities in California, the rates are higher than the national average.
Thyroid cancer is the No. 1 cancer for women ages 15 to 30 and No. 2 behind breast cancer for women ages 30 to 39, according to Dr. Melanie Goldfarb with Providence St. John's Medical Center.
UCLA researcher Dr. Avital Harari led the study that discovered the alarming data.
"We just found that on a whole all of California had more advanced cases than the average, statistically significant, not just a random difference," she said.
Harari studied 10 years of information. She found that Alpine, Amador and Calaveras counties had the most advanced cases. In Southern California, Santa Barbara County ranked fifth, San Bernardino County was 12th and Los Angeles County was 14th.
Providence St. John's Medical Center pathologist Dr. John Jalas studies how cancer cells mutate and spread. He said sun, diet and tobacco are the big environmental causes.
While radiation is a known thyroid cancer risk factor, Harari is now looking into whether pesticides might be behind California's higher numbers.
"I believe, just based on the geographic difference, that there is something environmental," she said.