What causes brain tumors?

Gliomas are the most common primary intracranial tumor, representing 81% of malignant brain tumors. Although relatively rare, they cause significant mortality and morbidity. Glioblastoma, the most common glioma histology (∼45% of all gliomas), has a 5-year relative survival of ∼5%. A small portion of these tumors are caused by Mendelian disorders, including neurofibromatosis, tuberous sclerosis, and Li-Fraumeni syndrome. Genomic analyses of glioma have also produced new evidence about risk and prognosis. Recently discovered biomarkers that indicate improved survival include O6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase methylation, isocitrate dehydrogenase mutation, and a glioma cytosine–phosphate–guanine island methylator phenotype. Genome-wide association studies have identified heritable risk alleles within 7 genes that are associated with increased risk of glioma. Many risk factors have been examined as potential contributors to glioma risk. Most significantly, these include an increase in risk by exposure to ionizing radiation and a decrease in risk by history of allergies or atopic disease(s). The potential influence of occupational exposures and cellular phones has also been examined, with inconclusive results. We provide a “state of the science” review of current research into causes and risk factors for gliomas in adults.

(abstract from Ostrom et al., Neuro-Oncology, ( pubmed link ) ( full text )