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Pituitary Tumor Risk Factors

Genetics Play a Role in Pituitary Tumors

There are very few known risk factors for pituitary tumors. However, the main risk factors are age and a family history of certain genetic conditions.

Although they can occur at any age, pituitary tumors are more common as you age. No one is sure why, but the older you get, the higher your risk of developing a pituitary tumor.

When pituitary tumors run in families, there are several genes that your doctor may want to test to see if that is what's causing the tumor.

Having one of the genetic conditions listed below increases your risk of developing a pituitary tumor:

  • Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN 1): A small number of pituitary tumors are caused by this rare genetic disorder in the RET gene. MEN 1 can lead to over-activity or enlargement of the pituitary gland.
  • Carney complex: This disorder can cause several types of tumors, including tumors in the pituitary gland. It's caused by a defect in the PRKAR1-alpha gene.
  • Abnormal changes in a gene called aryl hydrocarbon receptor interacting protein (AIP) is another risk factor doctors look for. These changes can be inherited from one of your parents, but they also can develop throughout the course of your life.

But just because you have one of these risk factors doesn't mean that you will develop a pituitary tumor.

To diagnosis a pituitary tumor, your doctor will first ask you about your family history, and he or she may do a simple blood test to rule out these genetic conditions or arrange for genetic counseling.

Because pituitary tumors have very few known risk factors, it's difficult to prevent them. It's also sometimes difficult to detect them because symptoms of pituitary tumors can be subtle. But researchers are hard at work to try to understand why certain people—who don't have the main risk factors of pituitary tumors—can develop them anyway.

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Diagnosing Pituitary Tumors