Pituitary adenomas are benign neoplasms of the pituitary. The most prevalent are prolactinomas and non-functioning pituitary adenomas, followed by growth hormone- and ACTH-secreting adenomas. Most pituitary adenomas seem to be sporadic and their persistent growth is very atypical. No molecular markers predict their behavior. The occurrence of pituitary adenomas and malignancies in the same patient can be either pure coincidence or caused by shared underlying genetic susceptibility involved in tumorigenesis. Detailed family history on cancers/tumors in the first, second and third generation of family members on each side of the family has been reported in a few studies. They found an association of pituitary tumors with positive family history for breast, lung and colorectal cancer. We have reported that in about 50% of patients with pituitary adenomas, an association with positive family history for cancer has been found independent of secretory phenotype (acromegaly, prolactinoma, Cushingʼs disease or non-functioning pituitary adenomas). We also found earlier onset of pituitary tumors (younger age at diagnosis of pituitary tumors) in patients with a strong family history of cancer. In our recent unpublished series of 1300 patients with pituitary adenomas, 6.8% of patients were diagnosed with malignancy. The latency period between the diagnosis of pituitary adenoma and cancer was variable, and in 33% of patients, it was longer than 5 years. Besides the inherited trophic mechanisms (shared underlying genetic variants), the potential influence of shared complex epigenetic influences (environmental and behavioral factors – obesity, smoking, alcohol intake and insulin resistance) is discussed. Further studies are needed to better understand if patients with pituitary adenomas are at increased risk for cancer.
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- Author: Vera Popovic x