What are the risk factors of nervous system/brain cancer?

A risk factor is anything that can affect your chances of developing a disease. While certain risk factors can influence the development of a nervous system/brain tumor, most of them do not directly cause the tumor to form. However, knowing your risk factors and speaking with your doctor about them can help you work towards making better choices and informed decisions.

The following risk factors can increase a person’s risk of developing a nervous system/brain tumor:

  • Age: Brain tumors are more common in children and older adults. That being said, brain tumors can develop at any age.
  • Gender: Men are more likely than women to develop brain tumors.
  • Race/Ethnicity: In the United States, white people are at a higher risk of developing certain kind of cancers such as gliomas
  • Exposure to chemicals: Pesticides, oil products, rubber, or vinyl chloride may increase the risk of developing a brain tumor. Even if these elements are often under discussion, there is still no scientific evidence that supports this link.
  • Family history: Approximately 5% of the brain tumors may be linked to hereditary genetic conditions such as neurofibromatosis, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, 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 (EBV) increases the risk of developing central nervous system lymphoma. Several other types of viruses have been shown to cause brain tumors in animals.
  • Electromagnetic fields: Studies that have evaluated the role of electromagnetic fields, such as energy from cell phones, have not shown a link between developing brain tumors. However, the World Health Organization has recommended limiting the use of cell phones for both adults and children.
  • Ionizing radiation: Previous treatments to the brain with ionizing radiation, such as X-rays, have shown to increase the risk of a brain tumor in people.
  • Head injury: Serious head trauma has been studied for its relationship to brain tumors. Some studies have shown a link between head trauma and meningioma.
  • Seizures: Seizures have long been associated with brain tumors, as it is one of the symptoms. However, it is not fully known if seizures increase the risk of brain tumors or not.
  • N-nitroso compounds: Dietary N-nitroso compounds are are formed in the body from nitrites or nitrates found in some grilled meats, cigarette smoke, and cosmetics. Some studies indicate that presence of N-nitroso compounds may increase the risk of both childhood and adult brain tumors.
  • Exposure to nerve agents: A study has revealed that some Gulf-War veterans have an increased risk of brain tumor from exposure to nerve agents (neurotoxic gases). However, more research needs to be conducted.






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