The human body has two adrenal glands, one atop each kidney as illustrated in the drawing above. These tiny organs produce hormones that help the body function correctly and are vital for immune system and stress response. The adrenal glands can often do their job even if they develop a tumor. Mostly the tumors are noncancerous and benign, but some are cancerous, or can cause other serious health problems. Adrenal cancer, although rare, has poor five-year survival rates: around 50% – 60% if removed early and only 10% – 20% if metastasized.
In a recent publication in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, a team of international researchers describes the epidemiology of adrenal tumors in Olmsted County, Minnesota. They used the Rochester Epidemiology Project, a medical research collaboration that allows population-based research on a level not possible anywhere else in the U.S. Based on those data, the authors recommend that all tumors, even those found secondary to the patient's main health concern, be fully evaluated for malignancy or contributions to hormone imbalance.
History of Endocrine Excellence
In the course of pursuing a doctoral degree at Aarhus University in Denmark, Andreas Ebbehøj, M.D., the study's first author, came to Mayo Clinic as a research trainee, specifically to study this topic.
"International collaboration is key in research, especially in the world of adrenal research," he says. "And what place could possibly be better to go than the birthplace of cortisone, discovered by Drs. Philip Hench and Edward Kendall; the home of living adrenal legends, such as Dr. William Young*; and last but definitely not least, the rising star and co-author of recent adrenal guidelines, Dr. Irina Bancos."
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