Can head injuries cause brain cancer?
The causes of cancerous brain tumors remain unknown. But can a head injury cause brain cancer? Let’s explore the link between them in our new blog.
Brain cancer is a devastating disease that affects thousands of people every year. Despite significant advances in medical research, it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact causes of brain cancer. However, there are certain risk factors that have been associated with the development of brain cancer.
In this article, we will explore head injuries and how they may contribute to the development of a type of brain tumor called glioma. This way, we can take steps to reduce our risk and better protect ourselves from brain cancer.
What is a glioma?
Glioma is a common type of brain tumor. It’s so common that about 33% of all diagnosed cases are gliomas. They can be benign or malignant, with malignant ones being the most aggressive and difficult to treat.
Symptoms of gliomas may include:
- Changes in personality or behavior
- Weakness in the arms, face, or legs
- Speech problems
- Nausea and vomiting
- Vision loss
These symptoms may appear slowly and subtly at first. Some gliomas don’t show any symptoms at all and might only be detected during a visit with the doctor.
Head injuries and gliomas
According to research conducted by the UCL Cancer Institute, serious types of head injuries could be a risk factor for brain cancer. Although there were speculations in previous studies that this could happen, there wasn’t enough evidence to entirely confirm it.
Glioma often comes out of neuron stem cells. However, more mature brain cells are less likely to give tumors. But the UCL team has found a possible link between a head injury and the possibility of developing a cancerous brain tumor.
Mature brain cells, called astrocytes, may change their behavior after a head injury causes damage to the brain. A blow in the head, for example, could cause a mutation that will then act along with brain tissue inflammation to cause a change in how the cells behave. This makes astrocytes more likely to become cancerous.
Although the tests were done on mice, the researchers checked and compared electronic medical records of patients who had head injuries and how many of them got brain cancer later in life.
Out of 20,000 people, taking into consideration the age, sex, and socioeconomic status of each one, they found that those who had records of head injuries were four times more likely to get brain cancer. Although the risk is still overall low, it proves that there is indeed a link between the two.
Age also plays a huge role in this occurrence. Although mature brain cells could change their behavior after a head injury, it’s more likely to become aggressively cancerous as the person ages.
Common causes of head injuries
A head injury is any trauma that occurs to the head, scalp, skull, brain, or the meninges, which surround the brain. Mild cases could include cuts, bruises, or fractures. Severe head traumas may involve more serious injuries, such as skull fracture, burst blood vessels, blood clots, concussions, or traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
Head injuries can be caused by various factors. Falls are the most common cause of head injuries. This can occur when someone trips or slips, falls from a height, or experiences a sudden impact on the head. Other causes include:
- Car accidents, motorcycle accidents, and other motor vehicle accidents
- High-impact sports like football, soccer, and boxing can lead to head injuries
- Physical assaults, such as being hit with an object, or getting punched
- Explosions, such as those from a bomb or grenade
- Work-related injuries in jobs that involve working at heights or around heavy machinery
Can you prevent brain cancer?
First and foremost, it’s important to note that not all brain tumors are cancerous, but all brain cancers involve tumors. Still, it’s better if brain cancer and head injuries can be prevented.
There are no proven ways to effectively prevent brain tumors. However, there are steps you can take to lower your risk.
Avoid exposure to radiation
Limit your exposure to ionizing radiation from sources such as X-rays, CT scans, and radiation therapy. It’s strong enough to change in the body’s cells, which can result in tumors and cancers.
Protect yourself from environmental toxins
Avoid exposure to toxic chemicals, such as pesticides, solvents, and other hazardous substances. If you must work with such chemicals, make sure to wear protective gear. It can help prevent you from getting exposed for too long.
Eat a healthy diet
A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains may reduce your risk of developing brain tumors. They help keep you in good shape and boost your immune system, too.
Regular physical activity can improve overall health and reduce the risk of developing some types of cancer, including brain tumors. It can be walking, jogging, swimming, or anything that puts your body to work.
Avoid tobacco and excessive alcohol use
Smoking tobacco and consuming excessive alcohol have been linked to an increased risk of certain types of cancers. Although they don’t cause cancer directly, they can cause health issues that could increase the risk of developing brain tumors.
Wear protective gear
When participating in high-risk activities, such as contact sports or riding a motorcycle, always wear appropriate protective headgear. When driving a car or riding in one, wear a seatbelt and make it a point to strap your little ones into reliable car seats.
While these measures may help reduce your risk of developing a brain tumor, it’s important to note that they can still occur in people who follow all of these precautions. If you’re concerned when you lose consciousness or any other symptom of a head injury, talk to your doctor about your individual risk factors and any additional steps you can take to stay healthy.
What should you do if you suspect a brain tumor?
If you suspect that you or someone you know may have a brain tumor, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately. Here are some steps you can take:
Visit your primary care physician
Your primary care physician can help evaluate your symptoms and refer you to a specialist, such as a neurologist or neurosurgeon, if necessary.
Get a neurological exam
A neurological exam can help assess your reflexes, muscle strength, coordination, and other factors that may indicate a brain tumor or any problems with brain function.
Imaging tests such as MRI or CT scan can help identify the presence and location of a brain tumor.
Consult a neurologist or neurosurgeon
These specialists can evaluate your symptoms and imaging results, and recommend a course of treatment if necessary.
Consider a biopsy
A biopsy involves taking a sample of the tumor tissue for further analysis to determine the type of tumor and the most appropriate treatment.
It’s important to note that while a brain tumor can be a serious condition, not all brain tumors are cancerous or life-threatening. Your healthcare provider can provide you with more information and guidance on the appropriate course of action based on your specific circumstances.
A head injury has been identified as a potential risk factor for the development of brain cancer.
Not all head injuries are equal when it comes to brain cancer risks. The severity and frequency of head injuries, as well as other factors such as age and genetic predisposition, may also play a role.
Despite the potential link between head injury and brain cancer, it’s important to emphasize that the vast majority of people who experience head injuries do not develop brain cancer. Nevertheless, individuals who have sustained head injuries should be vigilant about monitoring any potential symptoms of brain cancer.