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August 12, 2003

Genetics and Heredity

Question from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada:

My just turned 16 year old daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes almost four years ago, my cousin's 23 year old son has just been diagnosed with medullary cancer, his mother) has been treated for an underactive thyroid for years, I have Graves' disease, two of my mother's cousins also have children with type 1 diabetes. A friend who works in medical genetics (endocrine cancers) says there is a syndrome (multiple endocrine neoplasia), and she has heard that in a couple of families, some affected members get autoimmune diseases and some get endocrine cancers -- one or the other. She suggests we get some genetic testing done for my three children, but I am unsure how much genetics a general practitioner or pediatrician would be up on. Could one of your experts kindly offer an opinion? Is this a lot of endocrine stuff going on in one family, or is it just bad luck?


Autoimmune thyroid disorders as well as celiac disease are certainly much more common in people with type 1A diabetes. This could all be genetically predetermined. I would suggest that you consult with a pediatric endocrinologist since they will have the most current information about testing possibilities to consider.


[Editor’s comment: Multiple endocrine neoplasia is not associated with autoimmune diabetes.