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J Oncol. 2010;2010:385206. doi: 10.1155/2010/385206. Epub 2010 Jun 10.

Genetic Predisposition to Familial Nonmedullary Thyroid Cancer: An Update of Molecular Findings and State-of-the-Art Studies.

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  • 1Unit of Medical Genetics, S.Orsola-Malpighi Hospital, 40138 Bologna, Italy.


Familial thyroid cancer has become a well-recognized entity in patients with thyroid cancer originating from follicular cells, that is, nonmedullary thyroid carcinoma. The diagnosis of familial thyroid cancer provides an opportunity for early detection and possible prevention in family members. Understanding the syndromes associated with familial thyroid cancer allows clinicians to evaluate and treat patients for coexisting pathologic conditions. About five percents of patients with well-differentiated thyroid carcinoma have a familial disease. Patients with familial non-medullalry thyroid cancer have more aggressive tumors with increased rates of extrathyroid extension, lymph node metastases, and frequently show the phenomenon of "anticipation" (earlier age at disease onset and increased severity in successive generations). So far, four predisposition loci have been identified in relatively rare extended pedigrees, and association studies have identified multiple predisposing variants for differentiated thyroid cancer. This suggests that there is a high degree of genetic heterogeneity and that the development of this type of tumor is a multifactorial and complex process in which predisposing genetic variants interact with a number of incompletely understood environmental risk factors. Thus, the search for the causative variants is still open and will surely benefit from the new technological approaches that have been developed in recent years.

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