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What are the risk factors?

The causes of most brain and spinal cord tumours are unknown, but factors known to increase the risk include:

Family history – While it is rare for brain tumours to run in families, a fault in the genes, usually passed down from either the mother or father, can increase the risk of developing a brain tumour. For example, some people have a genetic condition called neurofibromatosis, which can lead to tumours of the brain and spinal cord. For more information about genetic testing, talk to your doctor or call Cancer
Council 13 11 20.

Radiation therapy – People who have had radiation therapy to the head, particularly to treat childhood leukaemia, may have a slightly higher risk of developing a brain tumour.

Mobile phones and microwave ovens

Many people are concerned that electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones or microwave ovens may cause a brain tumour.

Evidence to date does not show that using a mobile phone causes cancer. Studies are continuing to look at the potential long-term effects of mobile phone use. If you are concerned about potential harm from mobile phones, you could consider using a hands-free headset, limit the time you spend on your mobile phone or send a text rather than calling.

Microwave ovens have been in widespread use since the 1980s. There is no evidence that ovens in good condition release electromagnetic radiation at levels harmful to people.

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This information is reviewed by

This information was last reviewed in May 2020 by the following expert content reviewers: A/Prof Andrew Davidson, Neurosurgeon, Macquarie University Hospital, NSW; Dr Lucy Gately, Medical Oncologist, Oncology Clinics Victoria, and Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, VIC; Melissa Harrison, Allied Health Manager and Senior Neurological Physiotherapist, Advance Rehab Centre, NSW; Scott Jones, Consumer; Anne King, Neurology Cancer Nurse Coordinator, Health Department, WA; Dr Toni Lindsay, Senior Clinical Psychologist and Allied Health Manager, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW; Elissa McVey, Consumer; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Dr Claire Phillips, Deputy Director, Radiation Oncology, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC.