Reproductive and hormonal factors and risk of brain tumors in adult females

Int J Cancer. 2005 May 1;114(5):797-805. doi: 10.1002/ijc.20776.


Causes of brain tumors are largely unknown, and there is an urgent need to identify possible risk factors. Several observations point to a possible role of reproductive hormones, but few epidemiologic studies have examined whether reproductive factors, such as age at menarche and parity, are associated with brain tumor risk. We conducted a multi-center case-control study of newly diagnosed glioma (n = 212) and meningioma (n = 151) and frequency-matched controls (n = 436) in women from hospitals in Phoenix, Arizona; Boston, Massachusetts; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania between 1994 and 1998. Research nurses interviewed patients regarding potential risk factors for brain tumors, including reproductive factors and hormone use. Unconditional logistic regression analyses were used to calculate odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs). Risk of glioma increased with older age at menarche [OR = 1.90 (95% CI = 1.09-3.32) for age at menarche > or =14 vs. <12 years]. Early age at first birth was associated with reduced risk of glioma [OR = 0.43 (95% CI = 0.23-0.83) for a first birth before age 20 vs. nulliparity], but there was little effect of number of births. Exogenous hormone use was also associated with a lower risk of glioma, but risks did not vary systematically according to duration of use or age at first use. Possibly owing to low statistical power, there were few noteworthy associations between meningioma and reproductive factors, other than a nonsignificant (p = 0.09) trend of increasing risk with increasing age at menopause. The findings suggest that hormonal exposures early in life may be associated with risk of glioma, but the evidence is inconsistent and does not point clearly to a specific causal or protective hypothesis.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Brain Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Brain Neoplasms / etiology
  • Brain Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Contraceptives, Oral / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Glioma / diagnosis
  • Glioma / etiology
  • Glioma / metabolism
  • Hormones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Menarche
  • Meningioma / diagnosis
  • Meningioma / etiology
  • Meningioma / metabolism
  • Menopause
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Risk
  • Risk Factors


  • Contraceptives, Oral
  • Hormones