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Mod Pathol. 2011 Apr;24 Suppl 2:S19-33. doi: 10.1038/modpathol.2010.147.

Familial thyroid cancer: a review.

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Department of Pathology, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, FL 33136, USA.


Thyroid carcinomas can be sporadic or familial. Familial syndromes are classified into familial medullary thyroid carcinoma (FMTC), derived from calcitonin-producing C cells, and familial non-medullary thyroid carcinoma, derived from follicular cells. The familial form of medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) is usually a component of multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN) IIA or IIB, or presents as pure FMTC syndrome. The histopathological features of tumors in patients with MEN syndromes are similar to those of sporadic tumors, with the exception of bilaterality and multiplicity of tumors. The genetic events in the familial C-cell-derived tumors are well known, and genotype-phenotype correlations well established. In contrast, the case for a familial predisposition of non-medullary thyroid carcinoma is only now beginning to emerge. Although, the majority of papillary and follicular thyroid carcinomas are sporadic, the familial forms are rare and can be divided into two groups. The first includes familial syndromes characterized by a predominance of non-thyroidal tumors, such as familial adenomatous polyposis and PTEN-hamartoma tumor syndrome, within others. The second group includes familial syndromes characterized by predominance of papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC), such as pure familial PTC (fPTC), fPTC associated with papillary renal cell carcinoma, and fPTC with multinodular goiter. Some characteristic morphologic findings should alert the pathologist of a possible familial cancer syndrome, which may lead to further molecular genetics evaluation.

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