What are the Causes of Adult Brain Cancer

The exact cause of most brain tumors remains elusive, but researchers have identified certain changes in normal brain cells that may contribute to tumor formation.

Human cells typically grow and function based on the information contained within their chromosomes, which are long strands of DNA in each cell. Brain and spinal cord tumors, like other types of tumors, result from alterations in the DNA within cells. DNA serves as the chemical blueprint for our genes, dictating how our cells operate. While we often resemble our parents due to inheriting their DNA, DNA influences more than just our physical appearance.

Some genes regulate the processes of cell growth, division, and death. Oncogenes are genes that promote cell growth, division, and survival, while tumor suppressor genes impede cell division or induce cell death when necessary. Errors can occur during the replication of DNA when cells divide, leading to DNA changes that activate oncogenes or deactivate tumor suppressor genes. These genetic alterations can be inherited from a parent but are more commonly acquired during an individual’s lifetime.

In recent years, researchers have pinpointed specific gene changes responsible for certain rare inherited syndromes, such as neurofibromatosis, tuberous sclerosis, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, and von Hippel-Lindau syndrome. These genetic alterations heighten the risk of developing brain and spinal cord tumors. For instance, Li-Fraumeni syndrome results from mutations in the TP53 tumor suppressor gene, which typically prevents the growth of cells with damaged DNA. Changes in this gene elevate the susceptibility to brain tumors, particularly gliomas, as well as other types of cancer.