Determinants and Clinical Implications of Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies in Middle-Aged and Elderly Individuals: The Rotterdam Study

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Background: Thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPO-Abs) play an important role in autoimmune thyroid disease, but are also prevalent in healthy individuals. However, it is unclear what determinants may influence the occurrence of TPO-Abs in healthy individuals and how TPO-Abs may affect health outcomes in these individuals. We aimed to identify determinants of TPO-Abs in a large, prospective population-based cohort of middle-aged and elderly individuals and to subsequently assess the association between TPO-Abs and risk of overall and cause-specific mortality. Methods: We performed binomial and multinomial logistic regression analyses to obtain odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals [95% CIs] for the association of potential determinants based on previous literature with TPO-Ab positivity (>35 kU/L), TPO-Ab detectability (>5 kU/L), and TPO-Ab categories. Cox proportional hazards regression analyses were performed to obtain hazard ratios (HRs) and CIs for the association between TPO-Abs and mortality risk. Results: In 9685 participants (57% women, median baseline age 63.3 years, median follow-up time 10.1 years), we identified female sex (OR = 2.47 [CI 2.13-2.86]) and current smoking (OR = 3.10 [CI 2.66-3.62]) as determinants of TPO-Ab positivity and TPO-Ab detectability, respectively. Higher age (OR = 0.98 [CI 0.97-0.98]) and all categories of alcohol consumption (ORs ranging from 0.71-0.78) were associated with lower odds of TPO-Ab detectability. TPO-Ab detectability was associated with a higher risk of overall (HR = 1.09 [CI 1.01-1.17]), cancer-related (HR = 1.18 [CI 1.01-1.38]), and cardiovascular mortality (HR = 1.21 [CI 1.01-1.45]). Interestingly, this was more prominent in men compared with women (HR for cardiovascular mortality 1.50 vs. 0.99, respectively). Conclusions: In community-dwelling middle-aged and elderly individuals, female sex and current smoking are the most important determinants associated with TPO-Ab levels in the detectable and positive range, whereas alcohol consumption is associated with lower odds of TPO-Abs. The clinical importance of detectable TPO-Ab levels is illustrated by the association with an increased mortality risk, mainly in men. Our results warrant further exploration of the clinical applicability of detectable TPO-Ab levels, potentially as a marker for low-grade inflammation. The Rotterdam Study has been entered into the Netherlands National Trial Register (NTR; and into the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP; under shared catalogue number NTR6831.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-89
Number of pages12
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
V.D. received an unrestricted investigator-initiated research grant from Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited (IIR-NLD-002671).

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright 2022, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers 2022.


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