Benign adrenal tumours that don’t appear to secrete hormones are labeled as “non-functional” and are currently considered by physicians to pose no health risks, but these new results from Brigham and Women’s Hospital challenge that assumption.
Using data from the medical records of 1479 patients, including 242 with non-functional adrenal tumours and 1237 without any adrenal tumour, Anand Vaidya and colleagues assessed the risk of developing cardiometabolic diseases over time between these two groups.
“When we analyzed our results, we were quite surprised,” Vaidya said. “Our results indicated that patients with non-functional adrenal tumors developed diabetes twice as often as patients without any adrenal tumors. This suggests that even adrenal tumors we deem to have no health risks are in fact associated with an increased risk of developing diabetes.”
These findings suggest that non-functional adrenal tumours may be independent risk factors for developing diabetes and that patients with these tumors should be evaluated for diabetes more vigilantly.
Vaidya and his colleagues also analysed a third category of patients: those with adrenal tumors that secreted small amounts of cortisol, termed subclinical hypercortisolism.
They found that this category of patients had the highest risk of developing type 2 diabetes, illuminating a trend in the relationship between cortisol secretion, even in small amounts, and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
“Our results imply that once you have an adrenal tumour, regardless of its functionality, you should consider recognizing it as a potential risk factor for diabetes,” Vaidya said.
The study appears in Annals of Internal Medicine.