This Type Of Brain Tumor Is More Likely To Strike Obese People

By: Christopher Wanjek
Published: 09/18/2015 10:27 AM EDT on LiveScience

Being obese may raise your risk of developing a type of brain tumor called a meningioma by more than 50 percent, according to a new study.

The scientists said their study, a meta-analysis of 13 previous studies that included more than 6,000 people with brain tumors, does not prove that obesity causes brain tumors. But they say they have uncovered a striking correlation between an increased risk of brain tumor and body mass index.

Overweight patients were 21 percent more likely to develop a meningioma tumor compared with normal-weight individuals, but obese patients were 54 percent more likely to develop one, researchers reported today (Sept. 16) in the journal Neurology.

The study looked at the two most common types of brain tumors, meningiomas and gliomas, which together account for about 70 percent of cases among the 120 known types of brain tumors. Meningiomas arise from the tissues that cover the brain and spinal cord, called the meninges. Gliomas arise from cells in the brain and nervous system called glial cells, which are not neurons, but provide support and protection for neurons.

The scientists found an association between body mass index and meningiomas, but not gliomas. [Top 10 Cancer-Fighting Foods]

Fortunately, doctors are able to treat meningiomas successfully; the five-year survival rate is about 65 percent, the researchers said. In contrast, gliomas tend to be more aggressive. The five-year survival rate is about 10 percent, according to the American Brain Tumor Association. Brain tumors in general are relatively rare in the world of cancer, affecting only about 20 per 100,000 people.

Why obesity may be associated with meningiomas but not gliomas is not clear, said Gundula Behrens, a researcher at the University of Regensburg in Regensburg, Germany and a co-leader of the study.

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