The role of chemical, physical, or viral exposures and health factors in neurocarcinogenesis: implications for epidemiologic studies of brain tumors

Cancer Causes Control. 1995 May;6(3):240-56. doi: 10.1007/BF00051796.


This review highlights some future prospects and implications for epidemiologic research on the etiology of nervous system tumors. It reviews some points regarding physiology of the nervous system, in connection with mechanisms of neurocarcinogenesis, and experimental studies in animals. The results of epidemiologic studies are summarized in the light of the biological and experimental observations. The following aspects are particularly emphasized: (i) higher susceptibility of the developing nervous system to neurocarcinogenic agents (in the fetus and after birth); (ii) possible implications of knowledge about mechanisms of neurocarcinogenesis regarding crossing of the blood-brain barrier, activation of oncogenes and inactivation of anti-oncogenes, relationship between chemical structure and neurocarcinogenic action; (iii) necessity of further investigation concerning the occurrence of nitrosoureas and their precursors in the environment, and the potential role of nitroso compounds in the development of human brain tumors; (iv) lack of information about promoting or inhibiting neurocarcinogenic effects, and co-carcinogenesis--among others, interaction between X-irradiation and exposure to neurocarcinogenic nitrosoureas; (v) need for studying the potential neurocarcinogenic risk of polyomaviruses BKV, JCV, and SV40 to humans.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood-Brain Barrier
  • Brain Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Brain Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Brain Neoplasms / genetics
  • Brain Neoplasms / virology
  • Carcinogens*
  • Cocarcinogenesis
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Humans
  • Nitrosourea Compounds / adverse effects
  • Oncogenes / genetics
  • Oncogenic Viruses / physiology*
  • Polyomavirus / physiology


  • Carcinogens
  • Nitrosourea Compounds