Risk factors and possible causes of brain tumours
The cause of most primary brain tumours is unknown, research into this is ongoing. Brain tumours, like other tumours, are not infectious and can't be passed on to other people.
Brain tumours are slightly more common in men than in women.
Although brain tumours can develop at any age, the risk of developing a brain tumour increases with age.
However, some types of brain tumour are more common in younger adults. Children can also develop brain tumours.
We have separate information about brain tumours in children.
Brain tumours aren’t caused by an inherited faulty gene that can be passed on to other family members.
A small number of brain tumours occur in people who have certain genetic conditions, such as neurofibromatosis type 1 and type 2, tuberous sclerosis, or the following syndromes:
For more information about these conditions you can call our cancer support specialists.
Previous radiotherapy treatment
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People who’ve been exposed to radiation to their head, such as children who had radiotherapy to the head for leukaemia, are at a slightly higher risk of developing a brain tumour. If a tumour does develop, it’s usually many years after the radiotherapy.
Other factors, such as mobile phones, power lines and certain viruses, have been suggested as possible causes of brain tumours. A lot of research has looked into these possible causes; especially mobile phones. However, from the evidence to date, we still can’t say for sure that any of these factors cause or increase the risk of developing a brain tumour.
The cause of a secondary brain tumour is always a primary cancer somewhere else in the body.