Neuroendocrine Tumors: Risk Factors

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 05/2022

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about the factors that increase the chance of developing a neuroendocrine tumor (NET). Use the menu to see other pages.

A risk factor is anything that increases a person’s chance of developing a tumor. Although risk factors often influence the development of a tumor, most do not directly cause cancer. Some people with several risk factors never develop a tumor, while others with no known risk factors do. Knowing your risk factors and talking about them with your doctor may help you make more informed lifestyle and health care choices.

What causes most NETs is unknown, and no avoidable risk factors have been found. However, the following factors may raise a person’s risk for developing a NET:

  • Inherited syndromes. Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) is a hereditary condition associated with certain types of NETs, including lung NETs, gastrointestinal (GI) tract NETs, and pancreatic NETs. Other hereditary conditions linked to NETs include Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome, neurofibromatosis type 1, multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN2), and tuberous sclerosis complex.

  • Race/ethnicity. In general, NETs are more common in White people than Black people. However, the location of where the NET begins varies considerably by race.

  • Sex. NETs are slightly more common in women than in men, but the reason why is not known.

  • Age. A person of any age can develop a NET. Children rarely develop NETs.

  • Other medical conditions. Certain diseases can put people at greater risk of developing specific types of NETs. For example, people with diseases that damage the stomach and reduce acid production have a greater risk of developing a NET of the stomach.

  • Environment and diet. There are no known connections between the environment and what a person eats and the risk of developing a NET.

The next section in this guide is Symptoms and Signs. It explains what changes or medical problems a NET can cause. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.