Hereditary and familial thyroid tumours

Histopathology. 2018 Jan;72(1):70-81. doi: 10.1111/his.13373.


The worldwide incidence of thyroid malignancies has been increasing rapidly. Sensitive imaging modalities and early detection of thyroid lesions have made thyroid cancers the most rapidly increasing cancers in the USA in 2017 (SEER Cancer Facts, 2017). Clinical awareness of potential risk factors, such as inherited thyroid cancers, has allowed earlier recognition of more vulnerable population clusters. Hereditary thyroid neoplasms arising from calcitonin-producing C cells are known as familial medullary thyroid carcinomas (FMTCs), and include well-documented syndromes such as multiple endocrine neoplasia IIA or IIB, and pure familial medullary thyroid carcinoma syndrome. Familial thyroid cancers arising from follicular cells are referred to as familial non-medullary thyroid carcinoma (FNMTC), or familial follicular cell-derived carcinoma. Clinicopathological correlations have resulted in the further subclassification of FNMTCs into two groups. Among the first group are found syndromes characterised by a predominance of non-thyroidal tumours, including familial adenomatous polyposis, Cowden syndrome, Werner syndrome, Carney complex, and Pendred syndrome. The second group encompasses a spectrum of familial syndromes characterised by a predominance of non-medullary thyroid tumours, such as pure familial papillary thyroid carcinoma with or without oxyphilia, familial papillary thyroid carcinoma with papillary renal cell carcinoma, and familial papillary carcinoma with multinodular goitre. Most familial thyroid cancers have been described as being more aggressive than sporadic thyroid cancers, with a predisposition for lymph node metastasis, extrathyroidal invasion, and a younger age of onset. The distinct thyroid pathology in some of these syndromes should alert the pathologist to a possible familial cancer syndrome.

Keywords: familial adenomatous polyposis; familial medullary thyroid carcinoma; familial non-medullary thyroid carcinoma; familial thyroid carcinoma; multiple endocrine neoplasia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma, Follicular / pathology*
  • Carcinoma, Medullary / congenital*
  • Carcinoma, Medullary / pathology
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia Type 2a / pathology*
  • Neoplastic Syndromes, Hereditary / pathology*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / pathology*

Supplementary concepts

  • Familial medullary thyroid carcinoma