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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?

Answer:

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.

SB

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

WWQ]