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Older male with possible thymoma symptoms

Despite extensive research, the exact causes of thymoma aren’t fully understood. Physicians do know that certain genetic factors can make one person more susceptible to this cancer than another person, and that older men are more likely to develop thymoma than women and younger adults. However, there are no proven risk factors for thymoma, nor are there any conclusive causes. One prevailing theory is that complications of the immune system can ultimately trigger the development of thymoma. The thymus gland is responsible for producing T-cells and regulating a person’s immune system; researchers believe that certain immune-related conditions, such as the following, might cause abnormal cellular changes to occur in the thymus gland:

  • Myasthenia gravis (a condition that affects as many as 65 percent of people with thymoma)
  • Red cell aplasia
  • Hypogammaglobulinemia
  • Lupus
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sarcoidosis

However, many people who have these autoimmune conditions never develop thymoma, making it impossible to conclusively link the diseases to cancer.

As ongoing studies continue to investigate the potential causes of thymoma, Moffitt Cancer Center is leading the way with ongoing research and our robust clinical trials program. We believe that in order to provide the most effective treatments for a condition, one needs to fully understand how it develops. This is why we, as a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, are continually exploring the link between thymoma, genetics, environmental causes and other triggers. 

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Lary Robinson.

To learn more about thymoma research and the treatment options available at Moffitt Cancer Center, submit a new patient registration form on our website or call 1-888-663-3488. Referrals are never required.