Causes of Brain Tumor

Central nervous system comprises of the brain and the spinal column, all vital functions of the body like movement, thoughts and speech are controlled by the central nervous system. And if there is any tumor formation in central nervous system, any function of the body can be affected depending on the area where the tumor is located.

The brain is enclosed in the skull and there is limited place there. A brain tumor, which can be malignant or benign, is formed by abnormal growth and collection of brain cells. Since there is shortage of space, even a benign tumor can lead to pressure on the brain and there can be loss of some body function. These can damage the adjacent brain cells, lead to pressure effects and cause inflammation of brain tissue.

Causes of Brain Tumor

Most of the times, the exact cause of brain tumor is not known. A brain tumor does not result from an infection and it is not contagious. Some risk factors are:

1. Age

Brain tumor can affect people of any age. And the risk of brain tumors increases as we age. However, there are certain brain tumors which are more common in children or young adults. With the development of better diagnostic techniques, tumors are diagnosed at an early stage. Brain tumor is the second most common type of cancer in children and the fourth most common in young adults.

2. Medical Radiation

The only known risk factor for a brain tumor is exposure to radiation. People who undergo radiotherapy or have had CT scans or x rays of the head are more likely to develop a meningioma or a malignant glioma.

These investigations play a vital role in diagnosing serious conditions but should be advised after carefully evaluating the risks and benefits. Unnecessary radiation exposure should be avoided at all costs.

3. Previous Cancers

Another risk factor is having a cancer like leukemia or lymphoma at an early stage of life. People who survive these are more likely to develop a brain tumor as compared to those who did not have any history of cancer.

Exposure to radiation therapy as part of the treatment of original cancer can be a reason and some cancer medicines are also linked to the development of brain tumors but the risk is small.

4. Medical Conditions and Medicines

Having AIDS can double the risk for developing a brain tumor. Exposure to hormone therapy like HRT or using oral contraceptives can also increase the risk of developing a brain tumor but further research is required to prove this correlation.

5. Genetic Conditions and Family History

Some genetic diseases are associated with brain tumors and people with or closely related to anyone with neurofibromatosis, tuberous sclerosis, le-Fraumine syndrome, Von Hippel-Lindaue syndrome, Turner syndrome or Grolin syndrome are at a greater risk of developing a brain tumor.

6. Body Size and Exercise

There is some evidence that a very high BMI can be one of the causes of brain tumor. Overweight people are at a greater risk of developing a meningioma but the risk for a glioma is the same as general population. Babies weighing more than 4 kg at birth are also at a slightly higher risk of brain tumor formation than those who weigh less than 4 kg at birth.

There is no concrete evidence of the link between diet, weight, exercise and the development of brain tumors and research is going on to prove these hypothesis.

7. Gender

The incidence of brain tumors is slightly higher in men than women. There are certain types of brain tumors like meningioma which are more common in females.

8. Exposure to Chemicals

It is suggested that exposure to certain chemicals like pesticides, solvents, vinyl chloride or certain oils can increase the risk of brain tumor formation but more research needs to be done for solid proof.

9. Ethnic Origin

There is some link of ethnicity and chances of developing a tumor. Europeans are more likely to have a brain tumor than Japanese and gliomas are more common in Caucasians as compared to Africans.

10. Infections

A brain tumor is not caused by an infection but EBV infection increases the risk of developing a CNS lymphoma. Research is still going on to find the correlation between certain viral infections and development of brain tumors.

11. Head Injury

Head injury and seizures are among the probable causes of brain tumor and there is some evidence that a meningioma can occur after head injury.

12. Exposure to N-Nitroso Compounds

These chemicals can increase the risk of brain tumor formation and are found in cigarette smoke, processed meat and a few cosmetics.

What Is the Outlook of Brain Tumor?

The main factors which determine the survival after a brain tumor diagnosis are the type, location, stage, treatment options and general health of the patient.

Five year survival rate varies greatly for various types of brain tumors, in very aggressive tumors this is around ten percent while in some it can be more than thirty percent. Various treatment options are available. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy improve the short term survival and result in better quality of life. These treatments are used in combination for maximum results and patients who receive radiotherapy or chemotherapy or both after the surgery have more chances of survival. Patients with uncontrollable seizures following treatment have a poor prognosis.

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