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Does Neuroblastoma Run In Families & Can Adults Get Neuroblastoma?

Cancer that arises in undeveloped nerve cells or neuroblasts is called neuroblastoma. These nerve cells are found in many parts of the body. it is usually seen in small children of age 5 years and less. Though it can be seen in bigger children sometimes, the incidences are extremely rare.(3)

Does Neuroblastoma Run In Families?

Neuroblastoma is caused due to somatic cell mutations in most cases. This is known as sporadic neuroblastoma. It means that the condition was not inherited and was caused due to somatic mutations in the cells. However, an extremely small number of people may have familial neuroblastoma. This type of inheritance is known as autosomal dominant inheritance pattern. It means that one set of defective genes may increase your risk of getting neuroblastoma. However, this itself is not usually enough to cause neuroblastoma. Though having a set of defective genes makes one more susceptible to getting neuroblastoma, additionally, a somatic mutation may probably be necessary for neuroblastoma to develop.(1)

Can Adults Get Neuroblastoma?

Neuroblastoma in adults is an extremely rare scenario. Also, the neuroblastoma in adults is usually metastatic and the prognosis in adults with neuroblastoma is extremely poor.(2)

Usually, cancer starts with a mutation in genes, that makes the normal and healthy cells to grow abnormally and uncontrollably, without bothering to hid the signal to stop. Normal cells usually respond to these signals and halt their abnormal and uncontrolled growth. Cancer cells, however, grow abnormally and beyond control. These abnormal, uncontrolled, surplus or extra make a lump, which we call as a tumor.

Neuroblastoma is a tumor that starts in the neuroblasts. Neuroblasts are the undeveloped or early nerve cells. These are a part of the foetal growth course. As the fetus grows, the nerve cells also grow and form into full-grown nerve cells. These cells also make up the adrenal gland. These neuroblasts develop by the time the baby is born. Some may remain undeveloped, however, even after the birth. These eventually mature or vanish. Those that do not, turn into a form of cancer-the neuroblastoma. The exact reason for this genetic mutation The occurrence to date.(4)

Inherited neuroblastoma is seen to be affecting very few people. However, this qualifies as one of the risk factors for neuroblastoma(4)

Complications Of Neuroblastoma

Neuroblastoma may cause some complications which may include-


  • This is one of the serious complications of a neuroblastoma
  • It may reachor metastasize to other parts of the body
  • These may include lymph nodes, liver, skin, bones, bone marrow, etc.

Compression Of The Spinal Cord-

  • The neuroblastoma tumor may grow and start compressing the spinal cord
  • This may lead to severe pain and even paralysis


  • The neuroblastoma may make certain secretions which may irritate other normal cells and lead to paraneoplastic syndromes
  • Different types of syndromes cause different signs and symptoms in affected people

Treatment Of Neuroblastoma

The treatment of neuroblastoma will depend upon several factors related to your child. These factors may include the age of the child, the stage to which cancer has progressed, the type of cancer cells, gene and chromosome abnormalities, etc. also, the three categories in which your child’s cancer classifies, are a deciding factor when it comes to treatment. These are called low-risk, intermediate-risk, and high-risk categories.

Depending upon these factors, the treatment may comprise of one or more of the following regimes-

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Bone marrow transplant
  • Immunotherapy
  • Other new treatment methods like MIBG(3)


Neuroblastoma may have a familial origin, but these cases are extremely rare. Neuroblastoma in adults is also quite rare. Moreover, in adults, it usually leads to metastasis and prognosis is very poor.


Also Read:

Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 12, 2019

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