Neuroendocrine tumors: Causes

The exact cause of neuroendocrine tumors isn’t known. These cancers begin in neuroendocrine cells that have traits similar to those of nerve cells and hormone-producing cells. Neuroendocrine cells are found throughout your body.

Neuroendocrine tumors begin when neuroendocrine cells develop changes (mutations) in their DNA. The DNA inside a cell contains the instructions that tell the cell what to do. The changes tell the neuroendocrine cells to multiply rapidly and form a tumor.

Some neuroendocrine tumors grow very slowly. Others are aggressive cancers that invade and destroy normal body tissue or spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body.