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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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Carcinoid tumor

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What causes carcinoid tumors?

The cause of carcinoid tumors is unknown. However, there are some risk factors (none of which are avoidable) that may increase a person's risk of developing a carcinoid tumor. Although risk factors can influence the development of cancer, most do not directly cause cancer. People with several risk factors may never develop cancer, while others with no known risk factors do. Possible risk factors for carcinoid tumors include:[1]
  • Family history of multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1). MEN1 is a hereditary condition that increases the risk of developing tumors in the endocrine glands and small intestine. It is estimated that approximately 10% of gastrointestinal (GI) carcinoid tumors are associated with MEN1.
  • Race and gender. GI carcinoid tumors are more common among black people than white people, and black men have a higher risk than black women. Among white people, men and women have the same risk. Race and gender are not a significant risk factor in lung carcinoid tumors.
  • Age. For GI carcinoid tumors, the average age at diagnosis is 55 to 65. For carcinoid tumors of the appendix, the average age at diagnosis is about 40. For lung carcinoid tumors, the average age at diagnosis is between 45 and 55. Children rarely develop carcinoid tumors.
  • Other stomach conditions. People with diseases that damage the stomach and reduce acid production have a greater risk of developing a stomach carcinoid tumor. In particular, people with pernicious anemia have a higher risk of a stomach carcinoid tumor.
Lung carcinoid tumors are not caused by or related to smoking.[1]
Last updated: 4/9/2012

  1. Carcinoid Tumor. Cancer.Net. April 2011; Accessed 4/9/2012.