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Age is a prognostic factor for recurrent differentiated thyroid carcinoma (DTC) and may be related to radioactive iodine (RAI) nonavidity. Indications for molecular-targeted drugs (MTDs) are currently limited to RAI-refractory DTC. Demonstrating refractoriness to RAI, mainly indicated by RAI nonavidity, may be a barrier to the introduction of MTDs for elderly patients. The present study was conducted to evaluate the impact of age and histological type on the RAI avidity of recurrent lesions of DTC.Two hundred fifty-eight patients (189 patients with classic papillary thyroid carcinoma [cPTC], 8 patients with follicular variant of papillary thyroid carcinoma, and 61 patients with follicular thyroid carcinoma), who underwent their first RAI whole-body scanning for recurrent DTC at our institution between 2004 and 2013, were retrospectively studied. Radioactive iodine uptake was determined by visible uptake by metastatic lesion(s) in a diagnostic RAI–whole-body scan.The prevalence of RAI-avid lung metastases in cPTC indicated a significant, inverse correlation with age (<55 years, 36.2%; ≥55 years, 3%; P < 0.001). By contrast, for follicular thyroid carcinoma, the prevalence of RAI avidity was not influenced by age. Similar tendencies were observed for lymph node metastases.Radioactive iodine avidity by metastatic lesions of cPTC in elderly patients, especially those older than 55 years, was seldom demonstrated. Adherence to a strategy of restricting MTD administration after confirmation of RAI refractoriness should be revisited for elderly patients. A strategy of omitting RAI treatment should be taken into account when considering age and histological type.