• Question: What can a brain tumor be caused by?

    Asked by frank123rous to Leo, Iain, Gioia, Jo, Mariam on 23 Jun 2010 in Categories: . This question was also asked by mildredmad.
    • Photo: Iain Moal

      Iain Moal answered on 19 Jun 2010:

      A very good question. Nobody really knows. Unlike some other cancers, there isn’t really a difference in occurance in other countries compared to the UK, although women are slightly more likely to develop it than men (which is unusual, because for most cancers, men are more likely to develop them). It would seem that it is just bad luck that causes brain tumours, of which there are many different types. It seems to arise because of errors in the replication of cells. Many people believe that brain cells don’t replicate, but it has now been shown that they do.

      It is generally the case that cancers are more common in one country rather than another, because they have a cause that is unique to that country (childhood cancers excluded). However, for most brain cancers, there are such links.

    • Photo: Mariam Orme

      Mariam Orme answered on 22 Jun 2010:

      A brain tumour, like any other tumour, is caused by cells that get mutations which allow them to grow and divide much faster than they should.
      This can happen completely randomly if you’re unlucky. But there’s also a genetic component – genes that make you more likely to get a brain tumour can be passed from parent to child. And there are bound to be environmental factors that affect the risk of getting a brain tumour too, but so far the only one we know for sure is radiation.
      If you want more information about brain tumours, take a look at this website:

    • Photo: Leo Garcia

      Leo Garcia answered on 22 Jun 2010:

      A brain can either form from cancerous cells within the brain itself, or it can be due to a cancerous tumour elsewhere in the body, which has spread cancer cells out through the bloodstream and those cells have entered the brain.

      My project is looking at using ultrasound to guide brain tumour removal surgery. This is useful because surgeons must use MRI scans taken before a portion of the skull is removed to get access to the brain (which is called a ‘craniotomy’). However, the brain is known to shift in position after this craniotomy, as it shifts to poke out of the hole. So the MRI scans aren’t 100 % accurate to what the surgeon sees. With ultrasound, you can get a real-time picture of the brain during surgery – and in fact use it to guide that surgery to see if you have removed all the tumour. We have been testing this out for the past year or so, and the results look promising!

    • Photo: Gioia Cherubini

      Gioia Cherubini answered on 23 Jun 2010:

      5% of brain tumours have a genetic component, while as for the environment, the only definite risk is represented by radiation exposure. So there isn’t a specific trigger of brain cancer as far as we know.

    • Photo: Joanna Watson

      Joanna Watson answered on 23 Jun 2010:

      We don’t really know what the causes of brain cancer are. One of the women I work with is doing research at the moment to try to find out.

      We know that being older and exposure to radiation increase your risk.

      You can find out more about it here: http://www.cancerhelp.org.uk/type/brain-tumour/about/brain-tumour-risks-and-causes