Cancer of the brain and spinal cord Cancer can occur in any part of the brain or spinal cord. Cancer cells are abnormal cells that divide too often and without any order. In 1997, about 18,000 new brain tumors were diagnosed, a 50% increase from only ten years ago. They are rare tumors.
The causes of central nervous system tumors are not known, and scientists cannot explain why brain tumors develop in healthy adults. Certain factors, however, have been identified that may increase a person’s chance of developing a brain tumor. For example, workers in the oil refining, rubber manufacturing, and drug manufacturing industries have higher rates of certain types of brain tumors. Researchers are also studying families in whom multiple members have developed the same type of brain tumor to see whether heredity plays a role. They are also looking at the connection between viral infections and exposure to radiation and the development of brain tumors. There is no research to suggest that head injuries cause or increase a person’s risk for developing a brain tumor. Because most patients diagnosed with a brain tumor have no identifiable risk factors, it is believed that brain tumors result from a number of factors acting together.