Risk Factors for Primary Brain Tumors

Most people diagnosed with a brain tumor do not have any known risk factors. However, certain environmental risk factors and genetic conditions have been shown to increase a person’s chances of developing one.

Known environmental risk factors include x-ray exposure to the head, which causes less than 5 percent of brain cancers, the use of drugs that suppress the immune system, and having an immune system disorder such as AIDS.

Certain rare genetic disorders also raise the risk for developing certain types of brain tumors:

  • Li-Fraumeni syndrome increases the risk of glioma
  • von Hippel-Lindau disease increases the risk of hemangioblastoma
  • tuberous sclerosis increases the risk of astrocytoma
  • neurofibromatosis type 1 increases the risk of glioma
  • neurofibromatosis type 2 increases the risk of acoustic neuroma and meningioma

There are several myths about the causes of brain tumors that have insufficient research evidence to support them. For example, at this time, there is no solid data that indicates the use of cell phones — or being exposed to the non-ionizing radiation these phones emit — will cause a brain tumor. Nor is there evidence to suggest that head trauma, exposure to petrochemicals, or the consumption of aspartame leads to an increased brain tumor risk.

Talk with your doctor if you have any concerns about your risk of a brain tumor.