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  1. 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. André 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.; André 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
  2. A team of scientists in Montreal and Paris has succeeded in identifying the gene responsible for the development of a food-dependent form of Cushing’s Syndrome, a rare disease affecting both adrenal glands. In their study published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, Dr. Isabelle Bourdeau and Dr. Peter Kamenicky identify in the gene KDM1A the mutations responsible for the development of this unusual form of the disease. The scientists also show, for the first time, that the disease is genetically transmitted. Bourdeau is a researcher and a Université de Montréal medical professor practising at the CHUM Research Centre (CRCHUM), while Kamenicky works at the Hôpital de Bicêtre, part of the Assistance publique-hôpitaux de Paris network in France. Cushing’s Syndrome is caused by the overproduction of cortisol, a steroid hormone, by the two adrenal glands located above the kidneys. “When the tissues of the human body are exposed to this excess of cortisol, the effects for those with the disease are serious: weight gain, high blood pressure, depression, osteoporosis, and heart complications, for example,” said Bourdeau, co-lead author of the study with Dr. Fanny Chasseloup, a colleague from the French team. This discovery comes nearly 30 years after food-induced Cushing’s Syndrome was first described in 1992 by a research group led by Dr. André Lacroix at the CRCHUM and his colleagues Drs. Johanne Tremblay and Pavel Hamet. The form of the disease being studied by Bourdeau and her colleagues is caused specifically by the abnormal expression of the receptors of a hormone named GIP (glucose-dependent insulinotropic peptide), in both adrenal glands of patients. This hormone is produced by the small intestine in response to food intake. For people with the disease, cortisol concentrations increase abnormally every time they ingest food. The discovery of the genetic mechanism by the French and Quebec teams was made possible through the use of recent cutting-edge genetic techniques on tissues of patients including those investigated by Dr Lacroix at CHUM. Bourdeau was aided by CRCHUM researcher Martine Tétreault during the computer analyses related to the research project. Earlier diagnosis thanks to genetic analysis “In general, rare diseases are generally underdiagnosed in clinics,” said Bourdeau, the medical director of the adrenal tumors multidisciplinary team at the CHUM. “By identifying this new gene, we now have a way of diagnosing our patients and their families earlier and thus offer more personalized medicine. At the CHUM, genetic analysis is already offered in our Genetic Medicine Division.” In a remarkable demonstration of scientific cooperation, the Quebec and French teams were able to collect and study tissue specimens available in local and international biobanks in Canada, France, Italy, Greece, Belgium and the Netherlands. Blood and adrenal gland tissue samples of 17 patients—mostly women—diagnosed with GIP-dependent Cushing’s Syndrome were compared genetically with those of 29 others with non-GIP-dependent bilateral adrenal Cushing’s Syndrome. This was quite an accomplishment, given the rarity of the disease in the general population. It allowed the researchers to identify the genetic mutations of the KDM1A gene and to determine that the disease is genetically transmitted. Since 2009, the CHUM has been designated as the adrenal tumors quaternary care centre of the Quebec Cancer Program. About this study  “Loss of KDM1A in GIP-dependent primary bilateral macronodular adrenal hyperplasia with Cushing’s syndrome: a multicenter retrospective cohort study,” by Drs. Fanny Chasseloup, Isabelle Bourdeau and their colleagues, was published Oct. 13, 2021, in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology. Funding was provided by the Agence nationale de la recherche, the Fondation du Grand défi Pierre Lavoie, the Institut national du cancer, the Fonds de recherche du Québec-Santé, INSERM and Assistance publique-hôpitaux de Paris. About the CRCHUM The University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CRCHUM) is one of North America’s leading hospital research centres. It strives to improve adult health through a research continuum covering such disciplines as the fundamental sciences, clinical research and public health. Over 1,850 people work at the CRCHUM, including more than 550 researchers and more than 460 graduate students Media contact Jeff HeinrichUniversité de MontréalTel: 514 343-7593 Lucie DufresneCentre hospitalier de l’Université de MontréalTel: 514 890-8000 p. 15380
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