Risk Factors

Risk factors can influence the development of a brain tumor, but most risk factors do not cause cancer. In most cases, the cause of a brain tumor is unknown. The following is a list of some factors that may increase the risk of developing a brain tumor in some people.

Age- Children and older adults are more likely to be diagnosed with a brain tumor.

Gender- Men generally are more likely to develop gliomas and women are more likely to have meningiomas.

Home and occupational exposure- There may be an increase in the risk of developing a brain tumor if a person is exposed to solvents, pesticides, oil products, rubber or vinyl chloride and other agents, although the scientific evidence is not definitive.

Family history- Approximately 5% of brain tumors can be linked to a genetic factor or condition. Examples include Li-Fraumeni syndrome, neurofibromatosis, nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome, tuberous sclerosis, Turcot syndrome and von Hippel-Lindau disease.

Exposure to infections, viruses and allergens- Infection with Epstein-Barr virus increases the risk of central nervous system (CNS) lymphoma. High levels of cytomegalovirus have been found in brain tumor tissue. The significance of this finding is unclear.

Electromagnetic fields- The effect of energy from power lines or cell phones in increasing the risk of brain tumors is currently under investigation. The World Health Organization recommends the use of a headset when using a cell phone. At this time there is no definitive data that the risk of developing a brain tumor is increased with the use of cell phones.

Race and ethnicity- In the U.S., Caucasians have a higher rate of gliomas but lower rate of meningiomas that African-Americans. The rate of malignant brain tumors in Japan is less than half the rate found in Northern Europe.

Ionizing radiation- In some cases, treatment to the brain or head with ionizing radiation (including x-rays) may be a risk factor for developing a brain tumor.

N-nitroso compounds- Some studies of diet and vitamin supplementation may indicate a risk of childhood and adult brain tumors. Dietary N-nitroso compounds are found in some cured meats, cigarette smoke and cosmetics. A definitive relationship has not been established

Exposure to nerve agents- There has been one study that has shown some evidence that Gulf War veterans are at an increased risk of developing a brain tumor if exposed to nerve agents.


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