The Genetical Factor in Endemic Goiter

The Genetical Factor in Endemic Goiter

The Genetical Factor in Endemic Goiter

The Genetical Factor in Endemic Goiter


The thyroid gland plays an important rôle in mammalian economy, both in metabolism and growth of the child and in the functioning of the reproductive organs, especially in the female. This gland, like all other organs of the body, is subject to variations in function. One of the principal functions is the elaboration and storage of iodine compounds. Variation in functioning may be due to variations (particularly insufficiency) in amount of iodine ingested. Certainly, if no iodine gets into the body the thyroid gland is helpless to elaborate iodine compounds. But iodine in some degree, however small, is ubiquitous. Where it is below a threshold quantity in the intake, the thyroid gland tends to enlarge in response to the increasing demands of the thyroid-starved body. This is one theory of that thyroid enlargement which is called endemic goiter.

One fundamental fact must not be overlooked,--that in a region where goiter is endemic not everybody has goiter. A goitrous region is characterized by a high incidence of goiter. We are told of localities in the United States where, in these days of low-necked dresses, one quarter of the women at a gathering, as at church, show a more or less disfiguring neck enlargement. However, half or more, though living under the same conditions as the disfigured one quarter, reveal, even on careful examination, no thyroid enlargement.

In a study of 21341 white boys and 21018 white girls attending elementary schools in Cincinnati, Oleson ('30, p. 9) found some degree of thyroid enlargement in 26.4 per cent of the boys and 39.0 per cent of the girls.

The conclusion seems inescapable that the threshold for iodine intake varies in different families. In some families the thyroids are characterized by economy and conservation in utilization of iodine, in other families by wastefulness in its utilization. Variation in efficiency of the thyroid, especially where iodine intake is small, is a familial, doubtless hereditary, quality. From this point of view it becomes desirable to study the genetical factor in the production of goiter.


Some studies have already been made on the hereditary factor in goiter. One of the earliest was that of Riebold (1915), who finds in 65 cases 78 per cent in the female sex. He concludes that it is, therefore . . .

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