Hereditary Thyroid Cancer: Part 1

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Last Updated: January 8, 2019

The endocrine system is the bodily system that regulates our metabolism, growth and development, sexual function, reproduction, sleep,  mood, and more.  Glands that produce hormones and regulate these functions include:

  • Pineal gland
  • Pituitary gland
  • Thyroid
  • Thymus
  • Adrenal glands
  • Pancreas
  • Reproductive glands (ovaries and testes)

This article will focus on one endocrine gland, the thyroid, and hereditary syndromes that can cause an individual to be at an increased risk for thyroid cancer. When thyroid cancer or benign thyroid tumors/conditions occur, it is important to document them in your family history and to report them to your physician. This information can help determine whether genetic counseling may be appropriate and can help your genetics team determine if genetic testing may be right for you/your family. Accurate family history information also aids in interpreting your genetic test results correctly.

The following list includes red flags that increase the likelihood of a genetic predisposition.  When any 1 of these red flags is present in you/your family history, consider meeting with a genetic counselor.

  • Medullary thyroid cancer at any age, even with no other history of cancer;
  • Thyroid cancer (non-medullary) AND one feature of Carney complex (as described in Table 3 of this paper) in the same person;
  • Thyroid cancer (non-medullary) AND two features of Cowden syndrome (as described in Table 4 of this paper) in the same person;
  • Papillary thyroid cancer (cribriform-morular variant);
  • A known family history of any of the hereditary cancer syndromes discussed in Part 2 of this post.

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