Research, Scientific Breakthroughs, & Caregiver Tips
What Causes A Brain Tumor?
The root cause of a brain tumor is a mutation or damage in the genes that control the growth of affected cells. In a healthy cell, these genes prevent the cell from growing or reproducing too rapidly, and the genes can also determine the cell’s normal lifespan. In a tumor’s cells, the damage to the genes causes the cells to grow and reproduce rapidly, and the cells may live longer than normal.
As this rapid growth and reproduction continue, the cells grow into an abnormal mass. In some cases, the tumor produces chemicals that stop the body’s immune system from fighting the tumor, and the tumor cells may also trigger an increase in blood supply to support their growth.
The causes of the gene damage that produce a tumor likely differs between the various types of tumors, and in most cases, the causes are not well understood. The gene mutation that predisposes someone to develop a particular type of brain tumor may be present at birth in some cases, but there are also probably external environmental factors that trigger the development of a tumor.
Researchers have not pinpointed factors that increase the risk of developing most types of brain tumors, but two situations do increase the risk of certain tumors.
- Family history. A small number of brain tumor types have been positively linked to a family history of these types of tumors or genetic conditions that increase the risk of developing the tumor.
- Radiation exposure. Exposure to certain powerful types of radiation, called ionizing radiation, has been linked to the development of brain tumors. Exposure to this type of radiation comes from sources such as treatment for other cancers and nuclear explosions, not more common sources such as microwaves or radio waves.
*The medical information we gather and publish is vetted and intended to be up to date, accurate and express a spectrum of recognized scientific and medical points of view. The information comes from a nucleus of informed scientists, medical doctors, peer-reviewed scientific journals and the National Institute of Health. Please note, differing points of view among scientists and physicians are common. Every effort is employed to ensure the accuracy of these different points of view. That notwithstanding, it is incumbent on persons using this information to consult with his/her physician before reaching any conclusions. Our medical information and publications are not intended to be a substitute for consultation with one’s physician.
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