Brain & other nervous system cancer: facts & figures

Incidence in Minnesota:

The incidence of brain cancer in Minnesota has been stable since 1988. Unlike other state or regional cancer registries, from 1988 to 2011 the Minnesota Cancer Surveillance System (MCSS) only counted cancers that were microscopically confirmed. Since national data indicates that about 10% of brain cancers are diagnosed without tissue confirmation, rates in Minnesota may not be comparable to rates in other states that count brain cancers diagnosed without tissue confirmation. 

Starting in 2012, MCSS started collecting data on cancers that were clinically diagnosed via radiography, CAT scans, or MRIs. The increase in rates in 2012 may be due to collecting clinically diagnosed brain cancers.

From 2011 to 2013, an average of 226 new cases of brain cancer in males and 179 new cases in females were diagnosed in Minnesota residents each year.


Brain & other nervous system cancer cases in Minnesota

Age-adjusted rate of new brain and other nervous system cancer cases.
Age-adjusted rate of new brain and other nervous system cancer cases.

The rate of brain cancer is about 25% higher among males than females. Most recently, the age-adjusted incidence rate of brain cancer was 7.5 new cases per 100,000 males and 6.0 new cases per 100,000 females.


Brain & other nervous system cancer cases in Minnesota, by age

Age-adjusted rate of new brain and other nervous system cancer cases, 2004 to 2013.
Age-adjusted rate of new brain and other nervous system cancer cases, 2004 to 2013.

The rate of brain cancer is highest among males between the ages of 70 and 84 years.


What is brain and other nervous system cancer?

Brain cancer is the growth of abnormal cells in the tissues of the brain and the central nervous system (including the spinal cord and nerves associated with hearing, sight, and smell). Other types of cancer can spread to the brain from a different part of the body. This spreading is a common occurrence but is not considered brain cancer when the origin of the cancer is in a different organ.

What are the risk factors for brain cancer?

Ionizing radiation is the only well-established environmental risk factor for brain cancer. Certain types of ionizing radiation are used in medical tests (such as x-rays), which is unlike the non-ionizing radiation produced by cell phones, which employ radio waves. Because the brain is composed of many specialized cells, more than 120 different types of brain cancer can be classified. This diversity, combined with its poor prognosis, makes brain cancer difficult to study.

How can brain cancer be prevented?

No proven strategies exist to prevent brain and other nervous system cancer. Similar to the prevention of many types of cancer, it is important to avoid unnecessary exposure to radiation.