Causes, Risk Factors, and Reducing Risk of Brain Tumors

Primary brain tumors begin in the brain itself or in surrounding tissues, such as the brain-covering membranes (meninges), cranial nerves, pineal gland, or pituitary gland. When normal cells mutate, they grow and divide at increased rates, resulting in a mass of abnormal cells, which form a tumor.

Most brain tumors are not linked with any known risk factors. However, there are a few factors that can raise the risk.

Risk factors for brain tumors may include:

  • A compromised immune system, which can increase the risk of developing lymphomas of the brain.
  • Radiation exposure, which is most often from radiation therapy to treat another condition. Imaging tests that use radiation (X-rays, CT scans) could possibly increase the risk, but it is not known for sure.
  • Family history, although this is very rare. Von Hippel-Lindau disease, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Tuberous sclerosis, and Neurofibromatosis (NF1 and NF2) are inherited conditions that have been found in families with a history of rare brain tumors.

Cancer Prevention

Making healthier lifestyle changes (i.e. quitting drinking and smoking) can help reduce the risk of many cancers in adults, including lung and breast cancers. Regarding brain tumors, however, there are no known lifestyle-related or environmental risk factors other than radiation exposure.