Which insulin-producing tumors cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)?

Updated: Sep 12, 2019
  • Author: Osama Hamdy, MD, PhD; Chief Editor: Romesh Khardori, MD, PhD, FACP  more...
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Answer

Islet cell adenoma or carcinoma (insulinoma) is an uncommon and usually curable cause of fasting hypoglycemia and is most often diagnosed in adults. It may occur as an isolated abnormality or as a component of the multiple endocrine neoplasia type I (MEN I) syndrome.

Carcinomas account for only 10% of insulin-secreting islet cell tumors. Hypoglycemia in patients with islet cell adenomas results from uncontrolled insulin secretion, which may be clinically determined during fasting and exercise. Approximately 60% of patients with insulinoma are female. Insulinomas are uncommon in persons younger than 20 years and are rare in those younger than 5 years. The median age at diagnosis is about 50 years, except in patients with MEN syndrome, in which the median age is in the mid third decade of life. Ten percent of patients with insulinoma are older than 70 years.


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