‘Benign’ Adrenal Gland Tumors Might Cause Harm to Millions

Millions of people are at increased risk of type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure and don’t even know it, due to a hidden hormone problem in their bodies.

As many as 1 in 10 people have a non-cancerous tumor on one or both of their adrenal glands that could cause the gland to produce excess amounts of the stress hormone cortisol.

Up to now, doctors have thought that these tumors had little impact on your health.

But a new study out of Britain has found that up to half of people with these adrenal tumors are secreting enough excess cortisol to raise their risk of diabetes and high blood pressure.

Nearly 1.3 million adults in the United Kingdom alone could suffer from this disorder, which is called Mild Autonomous Cortisol Secretion (MACS), the researchers said.

Anyone found with one of these adrenal tumors should be screened to see if their health is at risk, said senior researcher Dr. Wiebke Arlt, director of the University of Birmingham Institute of Metabolism and Systems Research in England.

“People who are found to have an adrenal tumor should undergo assessment for cortisol excess and if they are found to suffer from cortisol overproduction they should be regularly screened for type 2 diabetes and hypertension and receive treatment if appropriate,” Arlt said.

These tumors are usually discovered during imaging scans of the abdomen to treat other illnesses, said Dr. AndrÊ Lacroix, an endocrinologist at the University of Montreal Hospital Center, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study. Both were published Jan. 4 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Adrenal glands primarily produce the hormone adrenaline, but they are also responsible for the production of a number of other hormones, including cortisol, Lacroix said.

Cortisol is called the “fight-or-flight” hormone, and can cause blood sugar levels to rise and blood pressure to surge — usually in response to some perceived bodily threat.

Previous studies had indicated that about 1 in 3 adrenal tumors secrete excess cortisol, and an even lower number caused cortisol levels to rise so high that they affected health, researchers said in background notes.

But this new study of more than 1,300 people with adrenal tumors found that previous estimates were wrong.

About half of these patients had excess cortisol due to their adrenal tumors. Further, more than 15% had levels high enough to impact their health, compared to those with truly benign tumors.

MACS patients were more likely to be diagnosed with high blood pressure, and were as much as twice as likely to be on three or more blood pressure medications.

They also were more likely to have type 2 diabetes, and were twice as likely to require insulin to manage their blood sugar, the study found.

“This study clearly shows that mild cortisol production is more frequent than we thought before, and that the more cortisol you produce, the more likely to you are to have consequences such as diabetes and hypertension,” Lacroix said.

About 70% of people with MACS were women, and most were of postmenopausal age, the researchers said.

“Adrenal tumor-related cortisol excess is an important previously overlooked health issue that particularly affects women after the menopause,” Arlt said.

Lacroix agreed that guidelines should be changed so that people with adrenal tumors are regularly screened.

“Everybody who is found to have an adrenal nodule larger than 1 centimeter needs to be screened to see if they’re producing excess hormone or not,” he said. “That’s very clear.”

A number of medications can reduce cortisol overproduction or block cortisol action, if an adrenal tumor is found to be causing an excess of hormone.

People with severe cortisol excess can even have one of their two adrenal glands removed if necessary, Lacroix said.

“It is quite possible to live completely normally with one adrenal gland,” he said.

More information

The Cleveland Clinic has more about adrenal tumors.

SOURCES: Wiebke Arlt, MD, DSc, director, Institute of Metabolism and Systems Research, University of Birmingham, U.K.; AndrÊ Lacroix, MD, endocrinologist, University of Montreal Hospital Center; Annals of Internal Medicine, Jan. 4, 2022

From https://consumer.healthday.com/1-4-benign-adrenal-gland-tumors-might-cause-harm-to-millions-2656172346.html

No Association Between Long-Term Gh Replacement, Comorbidities In Nonfunctioning Pituitary Adenoma

Hammarstrand C, et al. Eur J Endocrinol. 2018;doi:10.1530/EJE-18-0370.

Patients with growth hormone deficiency due to nonfunctioning pituitary adenoma experienced excessive morbidity due to cerebral infarction and sepsis regardless of whether they received long-term GH therapy, whereas treatment was associated with a normal incidence of type 2 diabetes, despite higher BMI and more severe hypopituitarism in treated patients, according to findings from an observational, registry-based study.

“Although growth hormone replacement therapy is well-established and reverses most of the features associated with GH [deficiency], one of the safety concerns is the reduction in insulin sensitivity and the potential risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus,” Daniel S. Olsson, MSc, MD, PhD, professor at the Sahlgrenska Academy Institute of Medicine at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, and colleagues wrote in the study background.

Studies examining whether there is an association have produced mixed results, the researchers wrote, and it remains unknown to what extent GH deficiency — and GH therapy —contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes and other comorbidities, including cerebral infarction, malignant tumors, myocardial infarction or fractures.

Olsson and colleagues analyzed data from 426 patients treated or followed for nonfunctioning pituitary adenoma between 1997 and 2011, selected from the Swedish National Patient Register. Researchers assessed information on tumor treatment, hormone therapy, antihypertensive medication, BMI and duration of GH therapy. For patients with type 2 diabetes, researchers assessed HbA1c values, insulin treatment, oral antidiabetes therapies and lipid-lowering therapies. Researchers followed the cohort through December 2014 or until death. Patients were stratified by use of GH therapy. Researchers calculated standardized incidence ratios (SIRs) based on the observed number of comorbidities among patients with nonfunctioning pituitary adenoma vs. the expected number of comorbidities in the background population.

Within the cohort, 207 patients received GH therapy (145 men) and 219 did not (129 men). Median duration of GH therapy was 11.7 years; mean age at diagnosis was 56 years for treated patients and 65 years for untreated patients. Median follow-up time for treated and untreated patients was 12.2 years and 8.2 years, respectively.

Incidence of cerebral infarction was increased for the whole cohort regardless of GH therapy status, with an SIR of 1.39 (95% CI, 1.03-1.84), and was most evident among 97 patients who underwent radiotherapy, in which 19 cerebral infarctions occurred vs. the expected number of 9.8 (P = .011).

“The study showed an increased overall incidence of cerebral infarction in patients with [nonfunctioning pituitary adenoma] compared to the general population that was related to previous radiotherapy, but not to GH [replacement therapy],” the researchers wrote.

Incidence of myocardial infarction was similar for treated and untreated patients, with SIRs of 1.18 (95% CI, 0.73-1.8) and 1.23 (95% CI, 0.82-1.78), respectively. Incidence of receiving medical treatment for hypertension was also similar between groups.

In assessing incidence of type 2 diabetes, the researchers found that the SIR was higher among untreated patients (1.65; 95% CI, 1.06-2.46) vs. treated patients, who had an SIR similar to the background population (0.99; 95% CI, 0.55-1.63). Treated patients with type 2 diabetes had higher BMI vs. untreated patients with type 2 diabetes (P = .01), according to researchers, and glycemic status was similar among treated and untreated patients.

The incidence of sepsis requiring hospitalization was also similar between treated and untreated patients, with rates for both groups close to double that of the background population (P < .001). Incidence of malignant tumors was not increased for treated or untreated patients when compared against the background population, according to the researchers. – by Regina Schaffer

Disclosures: The Gothenburg Growth Hormone Database is supported partly through unrestricted grants from Novo Nordisk, Pfizer and Sandoz. Olsson reports he has served as a consultant for Ipsen, Pfizer and Sandoz. Another author reports he has served as a consultant to AstraZeneca and Viropharma/Shire, and received lecture fees from Novo Nordisk, Otsuka and Pfizer.

From https://www.healio.com/endocrinology/neuroendocrinology/news/in-the-journals/%7B0739a3a3-f592-4352-93f0-2ee5b5a89251%7D/no-association-between-long-term-gh-replacement-comorbidities-in-nonfunctioning-pituitary-adenoma

Late-night Salivary Cortisol a Poor Approach for Detecting Cushing’s in Obese Patients

Assessment of late-night salivary cortisol (LNSC) levels is a poor diagnostic tool for detecting Cushing’s disease in obese patients, a new study from Germany shows.

The test demonstrated a particularly poor sensitivity in obese people, meaning it will often suggest a patient has Cushing’s disease when that is not the case — called a false-positive.

The study, “Specificity of late‑night salivary cortisol measured by automated electrochemiluminescence immunoassay for Cushing’s disease in an obese population,” appeared in the Journal of Endocrinological Investigation.

Although excessive weight gain is a common symptom of Cushing’s disease, existing indications advise clinicians to test for Cushing’s in obese people only if the disease is clinically suspected.

The utility of measuring LNSC for Cushing’s disease screening is well established. However, differences in assays, sample collection methods, and controls have led to a great variability in the proposed reference ranges and cut-off values. Also, according to the Endocrine Society, the influence of gender, age, and co-existing medical conditions on LNSC concentrations is still unclear.

Regarding obesity, data on the specificity of assessing late-night salivary cortisol levels is contradictory, as some studies found no differences while others reported lower specificity compared to healthy individuals.

An additional factor complicating LNSC measures in obese people is the prevalence of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), which may also lead to elevated cortisol levels.

Research showed a high rate of false-positive LNSC measurements in obese patients with poorly controlled type 2 diabetes. Also, in patients with recently diagnosed diabetes, investigators found that LNSC had very low specificity — the proportion of patients with Cushing’s who test positive — and a poor predictive value.

Recent reports showed a high diagnostic accuracy using automated electrochemiluminescent assays (ECLIA) in patients with Cushing’s disease. These methods use special labels conjugated to antibodies that produce light when they bind to a specific target.

The research team used an ECLIA assay to test the specificity of LNSC in obese patients both with and without diabetes. The investigators also intended to establish a reference range and cut-off value for this diagnostic approach.

Adults who requested weight loss treatment were included in the study, including 34 patients with a confirmed diagnosis of Cushing’s and 83 obese people, defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of at least 35 kg/m2. Forty healthy individuals were also analyzed.

Eight out of the 34 Cushing’s patients had a BMI within the obese range, which correlates with an overlap in patients awaiting bariatric surgery for weight loss, the investigators observed.

All subjects underwent LNSC assessment at 11 p.m. Results revealed significant differences in mean LNSC values — 19.9 nmol/L in Cushing’s disease patients, 10.9 nmol/L in obese subjects, and 4.7 nmol/L in those of normal weight.

Compared to healthy and obese participants, measuring LNSC in Cushing’s disease patients had a maximum sensitivity of 67.6% and a specificity of 85.4%. This was lower than prior data from obese patients with two features of Cushing’s disease.

The cut-off value for detecting Cushing’s was 12.3 nmol/L, which is in line with other studies “and underlines the importance of an evaluation with an obese cohort vs. [Cushing’s disease],” the investigators wrote.

Results did not show an association between BMI, type 2 diabetes, and LNSC for all groups.

“In our obese cohort, we found that LNSC assayed by ECLIA had a low specificity in the diagnosis of [Cushing’s disease],” the researchers wrote. “However, the clear advantage of LNSC over other tests is the simple and stress-free sampling method.”

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2018/03/29/nighttime-salivary-cortisol-poor-approach-detect-cushings-disease-obese-patients/

The Challenge of Obesity in Diagnosing Cushing’s Syndrome and Strategies to Improve Methods

The effects of obesity on the diagnosis of Cushing’s syndrome and strategies to alter the traditional approaches have been addressed in a new review study.

The study, “Diagnosis and Differential Diagnosis of Cushing’s Syndrome,” appeared in The New England Journal of Medicine. The author was Dr. Lynn D. Loriaux, MD and PhD, and a professor of medicine at the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Clinical Nutrition at the School of Medicine, Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), in Portland, Oregon.

Traditionally, exams of patients with glucocorticoid excess focused on the presence of changes in anabolism (the chemical synthesis of molecules). Given the increase in obesity in the general population, changes in anabolism can no longer distinguish Cushing’s syndrome from metabolic syndrome.

However, analyses of anti-anabolic changes of cortisol – including osteopenia (lower bone density), thin skin, and ecchymoses (injury that causes subcutaneous bleeding) – are an effective way to make this distinction.

The worldwide prevalence of metabolic syndrome in obese people is estimated at about 10%. Conversely, the incidence of undiagnosed Cushing’s syndrome is about 75 cases per 1 million people.

Cushing’s and metabolic syndrome share significant clinical similarities, including obesity, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes. Therefore, “making the diagnosis is the least certain aspect in the care of patients with [Cushing’s],” Loriaux wrote.

Regarding a physical examination, patients with osteoporosis, reduced skin thickness in the middle finger, and three or more ecchymoses larger than 1 cm in diameter and not associated with trauma are more likely to have Cushing’s. Researchers estimate the probability of people with all three of these symptoms having Cushing’s syndrome is 95%.

Measuring 24-hour urinary-free cortisol levels allows the assessment of excess glucocorticoid effects, typical of Cushing’s syndrome. The test, which should be done with the most stringent techniques available, averages the augmented secretion of cortisol in the morning and the diminished secretion in the afternoon and at night.

Dexamethasone suppression is one of the currently used screening tests for Cushing’s syndrome. Patients with obesity and depression should not show decreased plasma cortisol levels when dexamethasone is suppressed. However, given its low estimated predictive value (the proportion of positive results that are “true positives”), “this test should not influence what the physician does next and should no longer be used” to screen for Cushing’s, the author wrote.

Some patients may show evidence of Cushing’s syndrome at a physical examination, but low urinary free cortisol excretion. This may be due to glucocorticoids being administered to the patient. In this case, the glucocorticoid must be identified and discontinued. Periodic Cushing’s assessments that measure urinary free cortisol should be performed.

The opposite can also occur: no clinical symptoms of Cushing’s, but elevated urinary free cortisol excretion and detectable plasma levels of the hormone corticotropin. In these patients, the source of corticotropin secretion, which can be a tumor or the syndrome of generalized glucocorticoid resistance, must be determined.

The disease process can be corticotropin-dependent or independent, depending on whether the hormone is detectable. Corticotropin in Cushing’s syndrome can come from the pituitary gland (eutopic) or elsewhere in the body (ectopic).

Loriaux recommends that the source of corticotropin secretion be determined before considering surgery. Up to 40% of patients with pituitary adenomas have nonfunctioning tumors (the tumor does not produce any hormones) and the corticotropin source is elsewhere. If misdiagnosed, patients will likely undergo an unnecessary surgery, with a mortality rate of 1%.

Patients with an ectopic source of corticotropin should undergo imaging studies in the chest, followed by abdominal and pelvic organs. If these tests fail to detect the source, patients should undergo either the blockade of cortisol synthesis or an adrenalectomy (removal of adrenal glands).

However, corticotropin-independent Cushing’s is usually caused by a benign adrenal tumor that uniquely secretes cortisol.

“Such tumors can be treated successfully with laparoscopic adrenalectomy,” Loriaux wrote. If the tumor secretes more than one hormone, it is likely malignant. Surgical to remove the tumor and any detectable metastases should be conducted.

Overall, “the treatment for all causes of [Cushing’s syndrome], other than exogenous glucocorticoids, is surgical, and neurosurgeons, endocrine surgeons, and cancer surgeons are needed,” Loriaux wrote in the study.

“This level of multidisciplinary medical expertise is usually found only at academic medical centers. Thus, most, if not all, patients with [Cushing’s syndrome] should be referred to such a center for treatment.”

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2017/10/24/diagnosing-cushings-syndrome-amid-challenge-of-obesity-and-strategies-to-improve-methods/

Bruising easily and gaining weight? Don’t mistake high blood pressure for this syndrome

By Olivia Lerche June 30th, 2017

Cushing’s sydnrome [sic]: Condition can have the same symptoms as high blood pressure

The condition is a hormonal disorder caused by prolonged exposure to the hormone cortisol – which can be caused by taking steroids. Cortisol regulates metabolism and immune response in the body.

Other people develop Cushing’s syndrome because their bodies produce too much cortisol.

It is most common in adults aged between 20 and 50 although women are almost three time [sic] as likely to be diagnosed.

While the condition is rare and only affects around one in every 50,000 people – the syndrome can affect people with type 2 diabetes, obese and have poorly controlled blood sugar levels.

The condition is also more common in people with high blood pressure.

Cushing’s syndrome – also called hypercortisolism – can cause a number of symptoms.These can include:
Weight gain
Thinning skin which can bruise easily
Reddish-purple stretch marks on the arms, legs, breasts, thighs, stomach and buttocks
It can also cause the face to become rounder – causing fat to deposit on the face
Muscle or bone weakness is also a sign of the condition
A loss of libido – decreased interest in sex – is also a symptom

Cushing's sydnrome: Condition can have the same symptoms as high blood pressureGETTY

Cushing’s sydnrome [sic]: Condition has similar symptoms as high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome

However, other symptoms can include excess hair on the face, irregular periods, severe fatigue, high blood pressure, high blood sugar irritability or depression and even a fatty deposit between the shoulders.The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases said: “Metabolic syndrome – a combination of problems that includes excess weight around the waist, high blood pressure, abnormal levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood, and insulin resistance-also mimics the symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome.”Cushing’s syndrome often develops as a side effect of treatment with corticosteroids.

Corticosteroids are widely used to reduce inflammation and treat autoimmune conditions  – where the immune system malfunctions and attacks healthy tissue – such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and lupus.

Cushing's sydnrome: Condition can have the same symptoms as high blood pressureGETTY

Cushing’s sydnrome [sic]: Condition can have the same symptoms as high blood pressure

Metabolic syndrome also mimics the symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome

However, the condition can be hard to diagnose because of the similarity to high blood pressure.To diagnose the disease, patients will usually need to have a saliva test, urine test and blood test to measure cortisol levels in the body.To treat the condition, patients will usually have to decrease the levels of steroids they are taking.

However, there are complications if the condition is left untreated.

It can lead to high blood pressure and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.

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