Thymus cancer

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Risk factors for thymus cancer

A risk factor is something that increases the risk of developing cancer. It could be a behaviour, substance or condition. Most cancers are the result of many risk factors, but there are no known risk factors for thymus cancer.

Thymus cancer is rare. It is mainly diagnosed in middle-aged and elderly people. It develops in men and women at about the same rate. Thymus cancer seems to happen more often in people of Asian, Pacific Island and African ancestry.

The following are possible risk factors for thymus cancer. These 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.

Possible risk factors

The following conditions have been linked with thymoma, which is the most common cancerous tumour of the thymus. But there is not enough evidence to show for sure that these conditions are risk factors. More research is needed to completely understand how they affect the thymus.

Myasthenia gravis is an autoimmune disease that causes the body's immune system to make antibodies that block or change some of the nerve signals to your muscles, causing weakness.

Pure red cell aplasia is when the bone marrow doesn’t make enough red blood cells, which causes anemia.

Hypogammaglobulinemia is when the body doesn’t have enough B cells. It causes a low level of gamma globulins in the blood. Gamma globulins normally fight infections.

Talk to your doctor about your risk. Having one of these conditions can be the first sign of a thymoma so your doctor may want to check for this cancer.

Questions to ask your healthcare team

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

autoimmune disease

A disorder in which the immune system attacks healthy tissues in the body.

bone marrow

The soft, spongy tissue inside most bones.

There are 2 main types of bone marrow. Red bone marrow is where blast cells (immature blood cells) develop into red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Yellow bone marrow stores fatty tissue.


A reduction in the number of healthy red blood cells.

B cell

A type of lymphocyte (white blood cell) that makes antibodies to fight bacteria, viruses and fungi.

Also called B lymphocyte.

gamma globulin

A protein in the blood that acts like an antibody to defend the body against infection.

A gamma globulin is a type of immunoglobulin.


Researcher Dr Michael Taylor Same brain tumour, different genetic profiles

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