What Is Carney Complex?

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  • Written By: Karize Uy
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 19 October 2019
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Carney complex is a medical condition that gives a patient an increased risk of acquiring tumors and cancers, especially of the skin and heart. It is categorized as an autosomal dominant disorder, which means that the condition is genetic and can be passed down if one parent has the condition and owns one defected gene. This also means there is a 50% chance that the condition can be passed down from parent to child. The Carney complex derived its name from J. Alden Carney, who, in 1985, observed joint symptoms of tumors, brown pigments, and an overactive endocrine.

There are several other names that Carney complex is known as, depending on the observed symptoms. One is the LAMB syndrome. LAMB stands for “lentigines, atrial myxomas, and blue nevi,” which refers to brown pigments, heart tumors, and bluish moles, respectively. The other name is the NAME syndrome that refers to the “nevi, atrial myxoma, myxoid neurofibromas, and ephelides,” pointing to moles, heart tumors, lesions and tumors on the skin, and freckles, respectively.


As mentioned beforehand, some of the more apparent symptoms of the Carney complex are tumors and lesions on and under the skin, usually experienced as an adolescent or an early adult. Abnormally large blue to black moles can also be observed. These tumors and moles usually emerge on the face and the limbs, but some can also occur on the lips, around the eyes, and on the genitals. Benign, or non-cancerous, tumors in the heart and breasts as well as in the bones and pituitary glands are also major symptoms. Tumors, particularly in the pituitary glands, can result in an enlarged face, hands, and feet.

Other patients can also experience tumors in the tissues of other internal organs, such as in the endocrines, ovaries, testes, and thyroid. Tumors associated with the Carney complex are usually benign, but there are occasions when malignant or cancerous tumors can develop. Often, patients are also recommended to have benign heart tumors removed, as these tumors can block the blood flow and can cause cardiac arrests and other heart complications. Pituitary tumors are also sometimes removed to restore proper production of the growth hormones.

Carney complex is a very rare condition, having less than 750 patients diagnosed with the disorder since its discovery. Early detection and examination is key to prevent further complications and to reduce the chances of getting cancer. A child with an affected parent should have regular skin, endocrine, and thyroid checkups, as well as an echocardiogram (EKG) to detect any obstructing mass in the heart. Blood tests are also very important to monitor the production levels of some hormones.


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