Epidemiology of acromegaly

Pituitary. 1999 Jun;2(1):29-41. doi: 10.1023/a:1009965803750.


Acromegaly is a consequence of chronic growth hormone (GH) excess, due in the majority of cases to a GH-secreting pituitary adenoma, and occurring with a population prevalence of 60 per million and an incidence of 3-4 per million per year. Males and females appear to be equally affected with an average age of presentation of 44 years. Younger patients may have more aggressive tumours and higher GH concentrations. There is co-existent hyperprolactinaemia in about one third of cases, and a variable proportion of [figure: see text] tumours appear to have activating mutations of the gsp gene or other genetic abnormalities. Acute complications such as carpal tunnel syndrome, sweating and obstructive sleep apnoea are usually readily reversible with treatment of the condition, but chronic complications such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease are less readily corrected and post-treatment GH levels of < 2.5 ug/L (5 mU/L) are needed to achieve the prevalence found in the general community. Such 'curative' levels of GH are achieved in only about 50% of patients with current therapies, and as a result there is an ongoing excess of patients with chronic complications of acromegaly leading to increased morbidity and mortality from the disorder, with observed-to-expected mortality ratios ranging from 1.6-3.3 and only approaching unity in those with growth hormone levels < 2.5 ug/L following treatment. Prognostic factors include in some studies the presence of diabetes and [table: see text] hypertension prior to diagnosis as well as measures of exposure to excessive growth hormone derived from the product of preoperative serum GH and the time from first symptoms to treatment. Overall, however, the most important prognostic variable appears to be the serum GH concentration achieved by treatment, with an increasing consensus that this needs to be < 2.5 ug/L (5 mU/L) to achieve cure of the condition.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acromegaly / complications
  • Acromegaly / epidemiology*
  • Acromegaly / mortality
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sex Characteristics