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Endocrine Cancer

What is an endocrine cancer?

Our endocrine system is a group of glands that release hormones into our blood.  These hormones help control and regulate out body.  The thyroid, adrenal gland, pancreas, parathyroid, and pituitary glands are all part of the endocrine system.  When these glands or organs develop cancer it is considered an endocrine cancer. 

Are endocrine cancers genetic?

Endocrine cancer can happen by chance, can be caused by environmental exposures, could be caused by a combination of genetic factors, or can be caused by a mutation in a gene.

Certain types of endocrine cancers are more likely to be genetic than others, such as medullary thyroid cancer or adrenal cortical carcinoma in children.  Other times endocrine cancers are caused by other factors.  

Individuals with genetic syndromes have a mutation (or change) in a gene that causes them to be at increased for breast cancer.  These mutations are typically inherited from a either parent and can be passed on to children.  People with genetic cancer syndromes may be at risk to develop other types of cancers as well.  Learning if you have a cancer syndrome can help you understand your risk to develop cancer, your family’s risk to develop cancer, and potentially provide you with ways to reduce your cancer risk. 

What are examples of genetic syndromes that could cause endocrine cancer?

Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia Type 1
Parathyroid cancer, pituitary cancer, pancreatic cancer

Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia Type 2
Medullary thyroid cancer and rare tumors called paragangliomas or pheochromocytomas

Von Hippel Lindau
Adrenal gland cancer, kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer, cancer of the central nervous system

Hereditary pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas