Parathyroid cancer

You are here: 

Risk factors for parathyroid cancer

A risk factor is something (such as a behaviour, substance or condition) that increases the risk of developing cancer. Most cancers are the result of many risk factors, but sometimes parathyroid cancer develops in people who don’t have any of the risk factors described below.


Parathyroid cancer is very rare. Most people diagnosed with parathyroid cancer are middle aged. It affects men and women equally.

The following are risk factors for parathyroid cancer. All of the known risk factors are not modifiable. This means that you can’t avoid them. Until we learn more about these risk factors, there are no specific ways you can reduce your risk.

Risk factors are generally listed in order from most to least important. But in most cases, it is impossible to rank them with absolute certainty.

Known risk factors

There is convincing evidence that the following factors increase your risk for parathyroid cancer.

Multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN)

Multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN) is a group of inherited (genetic) diseases that affect the endocrine systemendocrine systemThe group of glands and cells in the body that make and release hormones (which control many functions such as growth, reproduction, sleep, hunger and metabolism) into the blood.. MEN can cause tumours in the endocrine glands, which can affect hormones in the body. Hormones regulate specific body functions, such as metabolism, growth and reproduction.

There are different types of multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN). Two types increase the risk for parathyroid cancer. People with type 1 (MEN 1) are more likely to develop parathyroid cancer than people with type 2A (MEN 2A).

Hyperparathyroidism–jaw tumour syndrome

Hyperparathyroidism–jaw tumour (HPT–JT) syndrome is a rare inherited (genetic) disease. It causes several tumours to develop on the parathyroid gland. Most of the time, the tumours that develop with HPT–JT are benign adenomas. But sometimes the tumours are parathyroid carcinomas.

The tumours cause the parathyroid glands to make too much parathyroid hormone. This hormone helps control the level of calcium in your blood. When the parathyroid glands make too much parathyroid hormone, it is called hyperparathyroidism.

HPT–JT syndrome can also cause a benign tumour, called a fibroma, to develop in the jaw bone.

Familial isolated hyperparathyroidism

Familial isolated hyperparathyroidism (FIHP) is a rare inherited (genetic) condition in which tumours form on the parathyroid glands. These tumours cause hyperparathyroidism, which is when the parathyroid glands make too much parathyroid hormone. Most of the parathyroid tumours caused by FIHP are benign adenomas, but a small number can be parathyroid carcinomas.

Back to top

Possible risk factors

The following factors have been linked with parathyroid cancer, but there is not enough evidence to show they are known risk factors. Further study is needed to clarify the role of these factors for parathyroid cancer.

Gene mutations

Genes are the basic unit of heredity passed from parents to a child. Sometimes genes change, which is called a mutation. Some gene mutations have been linked to parathyroid cancer.

CDC73 (also known as the HRPT2 gene) is a gene that tells the body how to make a protein called parafibromin. Parafibromin plays a role in cell growth and division. Mutations in the CDC73 gene cause changes to the amount and quality of parafibromin that the body makes. Changes to parafibromin are linked with abnormal cell growth in the parathyroid gland.

Other genes have also been linked to parathyroid cancer. These include the BRCA 2 gene, which is linked with breast cancer, and the retinoblastoma (Rb) gene.

Radiation therapy to the head and neck

People who have received radiation therapy to the head and neck area are at an increased risk of developing parathyroid tumours. This risk factor is more commonly linked with benign adenomas, but some people may develop malignant parathyroid tumours.

Back to top

Questions to ask your healthcare team

To make the decisions that are right for you, ask your healthcare team questions about risks.


Stephanie Hermsen Thanks to the incredible progress in retinoblastoma research made possible by Canadian Cancer Society funding, my son won’t have to go through what I did.

Read Stephanie's story

Support from someone who has ‘been there’

Illustration of conversation

The Canadian Cancer Society’s peer support program is a telephone support service that matches cancer patients and their caregivers with specially trained volunteers.

Learn more