Overview of Adrenal Cancer

Adrenal cancer is a rare disease that originates in the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are located on top of the kidneys and consist of two parts that function separately: the outer layer (cortex) and the inner area (medulla).

The cortex produces three major hormones: cortisol (a glucocorticoid), aldosterone (a mineralocorticoid), and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA; an androgen). The medulla produces epinephrine (adrenaline), norepinephrine, and dopamine.

Adrenal tumors can increase hormone production (called functioning tumors). Adrenal tumors that do not produce hormones are called nonfunctioning. Symptoms of adrenal cancer and treatment for the condition depend on whether the tumor is functioning or nonfunctioning, and on which hormone is being overproduced.

Adrenal Cancer Incidence

Worldwide, about 1 out of 1 million people develop adrenal cancer each year. Prevalence of the condition is slightly higher in men in their 40s and 50s and in children younger than 5 years old.

According to the American Cancer Society, the exact number of people diagnosed with adrenal cancer each year in the United States is not known and is probably around 200. The average age at diagnosis is around 46, but adrenal cortical cancer can occur at any age.

Updated by Remedy Health Media

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 09 Jun 1998

Last Modified: 28 Aug 2015