PurposeEvidence showed that benign thyroid disease was one of the risk factors for thyroid cancer. However, the results of some studies were inconsistent and were previously meta-analyses of case–control studies. Therefore, we performed a meta-analysis of prospective studies to investigate the relationship between benign thyroid diseases and thyroid cancer risk.MethodsAll eligible studies were identified via systematic searches of multiple literature databases. The combined RR (relative risk)/HR (hazard ratio) or SIR (standardized incidence ratio) with 95% confidence interval was calculated. Heterogeneity was assessed with the I2 test. Publication bias and subgroup analyses were also performed.ResultsTwelve studies were eligible for inclusion in the meta-analysis. The pooled RR/HR of thyroid carcinoma in benign thyroid diseases was 4.39 (95% CI 3.22–5.55). The pooled SIR of thyroid carcinoma in benign thyroid diseases was 5.98 (95% CI 4.09–7.86). Subgroup analysis was performed using the type of benign thyroid diseases. Effect value was RR/HR: hyperthyroidism (RR/HR = 3.89, 95% CI = 1.69–6.08), hypothyroidism (RR/HR = 2.72, 95% CI = 1.04–4.41), and goiter (RR/HR = 22.18, 95% CI = 12.09–32.28). Effect value was SIR: hyperthyroidism (RR/HR = 5.96, 95% CI = 1.88–10.03), goiter (RR/HR = 7.65, 95% CI = 6.94–8.37), and thyroiditis (RR/HR = 3.25, 95% CI = 1.62–4.89).ConclusionsOur study has shown that benign thyroid diseases might be associated with increased risk of thyroid cancer, especially in hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, and goiter. However, further investigation is needed to better understand the underlying biological mechanisms.