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Adrenal cancer
Causes and risk factors

Updated: October 1, 2005

No established risk factors are available for adrenal cancer. This is due to the fact that they are very rare which has made epidemiological studies unfruitful and difficult.

Chromosomal abnormalities

At the genetic level adrenal neoplasms show the following abnormalities.

  • Mutation or loss of p53 tumor suppressor gene which is present on chromosome 17 (17p). Adrenocortical cancer is a frequent occurrence in Li-Fraumeni syndrome which harbors a germline mutation in TP53.
  • Frequent loss of heterozygocity on chromosomes 11p and 13q. Adrenocortical cancer is seen in Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome which involves a mutation in 11p15.


Risk for developing the disease is increased in men who smoked more than 25 cigarettes daily (odds ratio 2:0; 95% confidence interval [CI]1.0?4.4).

Contraceptive pills

Women who used oral contraceptives, especially before age 25 have an increased risk in developing adrenocortical cancer (odds ratio 1:8; 95% CI1.0?3.2).

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Adrenal hyperplasia

Suggestions have been made that adrenal hyperplasia predisposes adrenocortical cancer. However, a definitive proof for a hyperplasia-to-adenoma-to-carcinoma sequence, which occurs with colonic neoplasms, is lacking.

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