About Adrenal Cancer

Adrenal glands are located just above each kidney. The adrenal cortex (outer layer of the gland) makes important hormones, including those that keep water and salt in balance, control blood pressure, and help the body use energy. Cancer of the adrenal gland, known as adrenocortical cancer or adrenal cancer, is a rare disease in which cancer forms in the cortex of the adrenal gland. Only about 200 cases are diagnosed each year. 

Most tumors of the adrenal cortex are not cancer. They are benign tumors known as adenomas. They may make extra amounts of one or more adrenal hormones, which may cause symptoms. It is also important to differentiate true adrenal cancer from cancers that have spread from other organs.

Risk Factors

Adrenal cancer is very rare though there are some risk factors to be aware of:

  • There are some known genetic conditions that are associated with adrenal cancer, though a majority of cases are not hereditary
  • High-fat diet and lack of exercise
  • Smoking


Patients who have risk factors or who experience symptoms should see their doctor. Those who have adrenal cancer may experience a combination of the following symptoms, particularly as the tumor increases in size:

  • Weight gain
  • Fluid retention
  • Excess facial hair or body hair in women
  • A feeling of fullness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Early onset of puberty (in children)