Risk Factors for Primary Brain Tumors

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A risk factor is anything that increases a person’s chances of getting a particular disease, such as cancer. Despite extensive past and current research to identify major risk factors, it appears that most primary brain tumors develop for no apparent know reason. Radiation therapy to the head for the treatment of other types of cancers is currently the only established risk factor for developing a primary brain tumor. For example, children with leukemia who receive radiation therapy to the brain as part of their treatment are at risk for developing a brain tumor later in life.

The link between exposure to certain chemicals (e.g., vinyl chloride), petroleum products, and chemicals used in the production of synthetic rubber has been suspected, but not proven, as a risk factor for brain tumors. More recently, the expansion of wireless cellular telephones has raised the concern about a possible link between radiofrequency exposure from cellular phones and the development of brain tumors. To date, no studies have found an association between the use of cellular phones and brain tumors, however, research in this area is ongoing. Exposure to electromagnetic fields from high-tension wires has also been suspected as a risk factor for brain tumors, however, most studies have concluded that there is no strong evidence that clearly proves an association.

Causes of Primary Brain Tumors
Over the years, researchers have learned a great deal about the underlying molecular and genetic events that are involved in the transformation of a “normal” cell to a “malignant” or cancerous cell. Brain tumors, like other types of cancers, are thought to be caused bygenetic mutations (abnormalities). Some genetic mutations are passed down from parents to children (inherited mutations) while other genetic mutations, known as acquired mutations, develop as a result of risk factors, such as smoking or chemical exposure, that causes damage to the genetic material (DNA) of the cells during the normal cell division cycle.

Most people who develop a primary brain tumor do not have a family history of brain tumors so that inherited mutations do not appear to play a major role in the development of brain tumors. With the exception of exposure to ionizing radiation during radiation therapy to the head for the treatment of other types of cancers, there is no clear-cut association between exposure to other environmental risk factors and the development of brain tumors.

As mentioned previously, it appears that most primary brain tumors develop for no apparent know reason. Although the exact cause remains elusive, researchers are continuing to investigate the role of environmental factors, genetic factors, and certain types of viruses in the development of primary brain tumors.

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Cellphones May Harm Memory, Pregnancy, Brain Cells – In Rats, Mice And Rabbits. Maybe.

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May 23, 2011 | By Melissa Healy

Steady exposure to the electromagnetic radiation given off by cellphones during use may disrupt fetal development, disturb memory and weaken the barrier that protects the brain from environmental toxins, says a welter of new research being presented this week in Istanbul, Turkey.

The authors of the studies, published in the past two years, highly preliminary and conducted on rabbits, mice and rats, suggested that the non-ionizing radiation emitted by cellphones and the base stations that broadcast cellphone signals may fundamentally damage cells by means other than the heat that they generate. That is a highly controversial assertion, because scientists have asserted that the only kind of radiation that causes cancer and DNA damage is ionizing radiation such as that emitted by nuclear material. The microwave radiation emitted by working cellphones simply does not have the power to scramble DNA or disrupt cell function, they say.

The studies were conducted by scientists working under the umbrella of the Environmental Health Trust, a nonprofitorganization devoted to identifying and controlling environmental health risks. The EHT has been especially active in showing that non-ionizing radiation emitted by cellphones is damaging to humans.

In one of the studies reviewed in Istanbul, mice exposed to two hours per day of radio frequency emissions from a transmitting cellphone were less able to to learn and rerun mazes, suggesting that cellphone radiation might impair spatial memory — the kind of recall that helps us navigate from place to place. A second study found that the barrier between bloodstream and brain that protects the latter from most toxins became more permeable when male rats (although not females) were exposed to 20 minutes of radio frequency radiation such as that emitted by cellphones. A third study found that exposing pregnant and non-pregnant rabbits to six minutes a day of electromagnetic radiation led to the release of “secondary messengers, such as free radicals,” which in turn destroyed DNA and fat molecules. (The babies born after such exposures, however, were fine).

The Istanbul meeting, convened by the Environmental Health Trust and Gazi University, comes a day before the International Agency for Research on Cancer — an agency of the World Health Organization — is to meet to decide whether research has demonstrated that radio frequency electromagnetic fields emitted by mobile phones are potentially cancer-causing. The agency has overseen a 10-year, $14-million epidemiological study called the Interphone Study Group, an international consortium of researchers that set out to determine whether cellphone use is linked to increased rates of gliomas or meningiomas (both forms of brain cancer), parotid gland cancer or cancer of the acoustic nerve.

The Interphone Study Group’s findings, released in May 2010, failed to establish that mobile phone use raises an individual’s risk for any of the cancers. But after the international effort turned up a troubling but ambiguous signal that brain cancer was more common among the heaviest cellphone users they surveyed, the group decided further research on the subject was “merited.”

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