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Simple Ways to Avoid a Brain Tumor, Say Doctors

Experts explain the one thing you can do to help lower the risk of a brain tumor. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

There's over 120 different types of brain tumors and while they're incredibly rare they can be life threatening–even the noncancerous ones because of their location or size. According to John Hopkins Medicine, "In the United States, brain and nervous system tumors affect about 30 adults out of 100,000. Brain tumors are dangerous because they can put pressure on healthy parts of the brain or spread into those areas. Some brain tumors can also be cancerous or become cancerous." Although the chances of getting a brain tumor is slim, it's good to know the signs and how to help lower the risk. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with Dr. Manmeet Ahluwalia, deputy director, chief scientific officer and chief of Solid Tumor Medical Oncology at Miami Cancer Institute, part of Baptist Health South Florida who explains what to know about brain tumors and the one thing you can do to help prevent it. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Causes of Brain Tumors

man hold his had and suffering from headache, pain, migraine

Dr. Ahluwalia says, "Most causes of brain tumors are not well understood and risk factors for brain tumors are rare. People with rare inherited syndromes like neurofibromatosis, tuberous sclerosis, von Hippel-Lindau syndrome and Li-Fraumeni syndrome are at increased risk of developing some type of brain tumor. Prior history of ionizing radiation to the head area is a risk factor for brain tumors. Additionally, having undergone hormone replacement therapy – certain hormones, such as estrogen, progesterone and androgen, are associated with the development of meningioma."


Signs of a Brain Tumor

Woman hands on his head felling headache dizzy sense of spinning dizziness with motion

Dr. Ahluwalia explains, "The signs and symptoms of a brain tumor can vary greatly depending on the brain tumor's size, its location in the brain, and rate of growth. Headaches that are associated with brain tumors don't respond to over-the-counter remedies the same way other headaches do. Typically, these headaches are worse in the morning. Most headaches are not associated with brain tumors. Other signs include seizures, cognitive decline, personality changes, trouble with balance and coordination, weakness on one side of the body, vision changes or hearing difficulty."


Survival Rate

Radiologist looking at the MRI scan images.

The Cleveland Clinic says, "Survival rates are different for each type of brain tumor and vary based on your age, race and overall health. Survival rates are estimates based on averages. The five-year survival rate tells you what percent of people live at least five years after they're diagnosed with a brain tumor. The five-year survival rates for meningioma, the most common type of benign (noncancerous) primary brain tumor, are:

–Over 96% for children ages 14 and under.

–97% in people ages 15 to 39.

–Over 87% in adults 40 and older.

Survival rates vary widely and depend on several factors. Talk with your healthcare provider about what to expect with your diagnosis."


Limiting Radiation Exposure

Brain and encephalography in epilepsy patient during seizure attack

According to Dr. Ahluwalia, "Except for radiation exposure and certain types of hormone replacement (for meningioma), there are no known lifestyle-related or environmental risk factors for brain tumors, so at this time there is no known way to protect against most of these tumors."


General Ways to Prevent Cancer

female neurologist is showing a male patient something on a synthetic brain

Dr. Ahluwalia says, "While there are no known ways to protect against brain tumors, following these tips are good recommendations in the general prevention of cancer.

Get Screened

Cancer screenings can find cancer or abnormal cells before symptoms begin, when treatment is most effective. Screenings may include a physical exam, a review of your medical history, laboratory tests, imaging tests and genetic counseling and testing. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic caused many people to skip their vital cancer screenings. According to a study published in JAMA Oncology, breast cancer screenings were down 91 percent, colorectal cancer screenings were down 79 percent and prostate screenings were down 63 percent.

Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

According to the American Association for Cancer Research's Cancer Progress Report, "Nearly 20 percent of new cancer cases and 16 percent of cancer deaths in U.S. adults are attributable to a combination of excess body weight, poor diet, physical inactivity, and alcohol consumption." It is recommended to eat a diet low in red meat, sugar and saturated fat, with a focus on lean meats, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats. We also recommend participating in moderate aerobic exercise on a regular basis.

 Stop Smoking

Approximately 6,000 to 7,000 co-carcinogens and carcinogens are released from the tobacco leaf. As such, avoiding tobacco usage is one of the easiest ways to prevent cancer." Dr. Manmeet Ahluwalia, deputy director, chief scientific officer and chief of Solid Tumor Medical Oncology at Miami Cancer Institute, part of Baptist Health South Florida. Specializing in primary tumors and brain metastases, Dr. Ahluwalia's research has been published in over 175 peer-reviewed publications and his study on glioblastoma recently was awarded competitive funding from the National Institutes of Health.

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather
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