Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia

A rare inherited disorder in which tumours develop in several of the endocrine glands

  • Due to an abnormal gene inherited from one parent
  • Age, gender, and lifestyle are not significant factors

In the rare disorder known as multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN), tumours form in several of the endocrine glands around the body. The condition exists in many forms, each caused by a different abnormal gene. In each case, this abnormal gene is inherited in an autosomal dominant manner, which means that the condition can be inherited from just one parent (see Gene disorders). Each child of an affected person has a 1 in 2 chance of inheriting the abnormal MEN gene, and the condition can appear at any age.

Tumours may develop in several endocrine glands at the same time or at different times over a period of years. In the most common type of the disorder, known as MEN 1, tumours develop in the pancreas, parathyroid glands, and pituitary gland (see Pituitary tumours). Less commonly, a variant known as MEN 2 causes tumours to develop in the adrenal glands (see Phaeochromocytoma) and the thyroid gland. Thyroid tumours may be cancerous (see Thyroid cancer), but tumours that develop in other endocrine glands are usually noncancerous. The affected glands may produce excess hormones.

What might be done?

If your doctor detects an abnormality in one gland, he or she may arrange for you to have blood tests to check the function of the other endocrine glands. If MEN is diagnosed, your family may be offered screening tests for the abnormal gene. Members with the abnormal gene can be monitored to detect tumours at an early stage.

Tumours are usually removed surgically. After treatment, you will probably be monitored periodically to check for endocrine abnormalities. If endocrine tumours are diagnosed early, they can usually be treated successfully.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

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