What Are the Causes of Brain Tumors?

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  • Written By: Melanie Smeltzer
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 19 November 2019
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A brain tumor is an abnormal growth of cells that become a solid mass, develop inside the cranium or central spinal canal, and may be either cancerous or benign. Although the causes of brain tumors are unclear, many risk factors may be to blame for this medical issue. Age, gender, and race are thought to play a role in the development of brain tumors, as is exposure to certain substances and environmental toxins, lifestyle choices, and habits.

Some of the primary causes of brain tumors are unavoidable. For instance, men are more likely to develop certain types of brain tumors than women. In general, Caucasians are more likely to develop these abnormal growths than other races. Age may also be a risk factor, as the majority of brain tumors are detected in people below the age of eight years old and those above the age of 70. Despite these factors, brain tumors can occur in people from all walks of life, though less frequently.


Environment is another one of the common causes of brain tumors. Work environment is one example of this. For instance, those who work with plastics can be exposed to vinyl chloride, while people who work in the nuclear industry are sometimes exposed to excess radiation. Pathologists and embalmers are frequently exposed to formaldehyde, and textile workers often come into contact with acrylonitrile, an important ingredient in acrylic fabric. In very small doses, most of these substances are not considered to be harmful; however, long-term exposure to any of these chemicals may result in the development of brain tumors.

Although less common, several genetic causes may also cause brain tumors. In some rare cases, these growths may be the result of a family history of brain tumors. Most gene-related cases, however, are brought about by an inheritance of certain genetic disorders. Those who inherit neurofibromatosis, for instance, are thought to be at a higher risk of developing these tumors. Other conditions thought to raise the risk of brain tumors include Turcot syndrome and tuberous sclerosis.

Though there is disagreement, some feel that certain causes of brain tumors may be related to lifestyle, health history, or accidents. For instance, cigarette smokers are thought to be at a higher risk of developing these growths. Those with HIV and those who have sustained a traumatic head injury are also thought to be at risk.


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