Adrenal Cancer Risk Factors
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What Are the Risk Factors for Adrenal Cancer?
As with many types of cancer, the risk of developing adrenal cancer may be increased by certain lifestyle behaviors and environmental factors, such as smoking and exposure to carcinogens.
Risk Factors by Adrenal Cancer Type
Adrenal cancer risk factors vary by cancer type and include:
- Adrenocortical carcinoma – No specific risk factors have been directly linked to the development of adrenocortical carcinoma. Adults in their 40s and 50s and children under 6 have accounted for the vast majority of cases leading many to identify age as a risk factor. Certain genetic conditions, like Li-Fraumeni syndrome, further increase susceptibility to developing cancers like adrenocortical carcinoma.
- Pheochromocytoma – A very rare form of adrenal cancer, largely occurring in middle-aged adults. Cases characterized by early onset of the disease in children suggest a hereditary link. Most adrenal pheochromocytomas are benign tumors and they typically do not spread. However, the tumors tend to produce dangerous levels of certain hormones, increasing the risks associated with high blood pressure and cardiac arrhythmias.
- Neuroblastoma – Less than 10 percent of all neuroblastomas are found in adults. Neuroendocrine tumors often occur on developing nerve cells and are typically found in children and infants. These tumors most frequently originate within the adrenal medulla, the center of the adrenal gland.
Genetic Syndromes Linked to Adrenal Cancer
Genetic syndromes have been linked to the development of adrenal cancer, although certain hereditary factors are more closely associated with childhood cancers. However, most adrenal cancers occur sporadically. Triggers for the disease remain largely unknown.
Some genetic syndromes that are considered risk factors for adrenal cancer include:
- Li-Fraumeni syndrome
- Von Hippel-Lindau disease
- Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 and 2 (MEN1, MEN2)
- Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome
If a hereditary risk factor is suspected because a relative has had adrenal cancer or an associated genetic syndrome, you may want to discuss genetic counseling with your doctor. Family history is an important piece of the puzzle and may lead to a better understanding of the risk factors associated with this rare disease.
NOTE: Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean you will get cancer. Nor does not having risk factors mean you will not get cancer. If you think you may be at risk, you should discuss it with your doctor.
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