Pituitary Tumor: Risk Factors

What is a risk factor?

A risk factor is anything that may increase your chance of having a disease. Things you should know about risk factors for pituitary tumors:

  • There are very few known risk factors for these tumors.

  • Many people who get a pituitary tumor have no known risk factors.

  • Risk factors can increase a person's risk, but they do not necessarily cause the disease.

Who is at risk for pituitary tumors?

Known risk factors for pituitary tumors are linked to inherited genetic syndromes. These are abnormal changes (mutations) in certain genes that are passed down from parent to child. These hereditary risks include:

  • MEN1 (multiple endocrine neoplasia, type 1). This condition is caused by changes in the gene MEN1. Having MEN1 syndrome raises your risk for pituitary tumors and some other tumors. If a parent has changes to the MEN1 gene, the child has a 50% chance of getting MEN1.

  • MEN4. People with this rare syndrome have a higher risk for pituitary tumors and some other tumors. MEN4 is caused by changes in the gene CDKN1B that are passed down from a parent.

Other rare inherited and noninherited genetic problems can also raise the risk of pituitary tumors. Changes in the gene AIP can also be a risk factor. These changes can be passed down from a parent. Or they can occur at some point during your life.

In rare cases, pituitary tumors seem to run in some families without a known genetic syndrome. 

Pituitary tumor screening

No standard screening methods are used to find pituitary tumors in people who are not known to be at increased risk. If you have an inherited condition such as MEN1 syndrome, talk about screening with your healthcare provider. If any of your family members have MEN1 syndrome, you may have regular blood testing to look for abnormal pituitary hormone levels. These blood tests raise the chances of finding a tumor early so it can be treated.