Causes of CNS tumors

Tumor growth is based on the cell’s damaged genetic material which leads to the disruption of its growth control. Type of genetic defect or its multiple presence defines the tumor type. Tumor process can start in any part of the brain or spinal cord.

Brain tumors are conditionally subdivided into benign (not cancerous) and malignant (cancerous). Benign brain tumors grow slowly and compress the surrounding brain areas, thus disrupting their proper functions. They rarely spread into other tissues and might recur after the removal. Malignant brain tumors grow fast and spread into other brain tissues.

All benign and malignant brain tumors cause symptoms and require obligatory treatment. Brain tumors can appear at any age. However, their treatment in children differs from the treatment in adults. Spinal cord tumors happen approximately 6 times less than brain tumors. Nonetheless, as spinal cord mass is 6 times less than the brain mass, a conclusion can be made that both parts of CNS are equally predisposed to the tumor growth.

The majority of spinal cord tumors are benign unlike brain tumors. Tumors forming in the brain are called primary tumors of the brain or spinal cord. In case tumor started its primary growth beyond CNS borders and has spread into one or more parts of the brain, then it is so called metastases of the brain tumor (metastases into the brain). Metastatic brain tumors happen more often than primary ones.

Cancer types that usually metastasize into the brain are melanoma, mammary gland cancer, colon cancer and lung cancer. Cancer types that tend to spread into the spinal cord are lymphomas, lung cancer, mammary gland and prostate gland cancer. Almost a half of metastatic brain and spinal cord tumors are caused by the lung cancer. Lymphoma, mammary gland cancer and tumors of the gastrointestinal tract can spread to the soft and arachnoids’ membrane of the brain (two internal membranes covering the brain and spinal cord).

Risk factors are:

  • Exposure to vinyl chloride increases the risk of developing glioma.
  • Radiation therapy can increase the risk of meningioma while treating scalp or brain tumors.
  • Epstein-Barr virus in patients with AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) may increase the risk of primary CNS lymphoma.

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