Environmental risk factors for brain tumors

Curr Neurol Neurosci Rep. 2007 May;7(3):208-14. doi: 10.1007/s11910-007-0032-4.


Primary brain tumors, whether malignant or nonmalignant, have devastating consequences. Unfortunately, few known causes exist. Despite decades of epidemiologic research to identify environmental causes of brain tumors, very little progress has been made. The purpose of this paper is to review the most recent studies in the epidemiology of brain tumors. Popular topics of interest in adult brain tumor epidemiology include electromagnetic fields (particularly cellular phones), occupational exposures, nitroso-containing compounds (especially smoking), hair products, and allergic and immunologic factors. Some of these topics are also applicable to the etiology of childhood brain tumors, but additional areas of interest in the pediatric population focus on parental exposure prior to conception, maternal exposure during pregnancy, and childhood exposure to infectious agents. After an extensive review of the literature since 2001, we present the most relevant studies. Although there are many proposed associations with brain tumors, none possess the statistical significance to confidently ascribe causation. However, new findings and associations, particularly those in allergy and immunology, will present interesting opportunities for further development.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Brain Neoplasms* / etiology
  • Brain Neoplasms* / immunology
  • Brain Neoplasms* / physiopathology
  • Electromagnetic Fields / adverse effects
  • Environmental Exposure* / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Hair Dyes / toxicity
  • Humans
  • Nitroso Compounds / toxicity
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / adverse effects


  • Hair Dyes
  • Nitroso Compounds