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Brain Cancer Risk Rises in Vets After Serious Head Injury
  • Posted February 16, 2024

Brain Cancer Risk Rises in Vets After Serious Head Injury

People who've suffered a moderate to severe traumatic brain injury have a greatly increased risk of brain cancer, a new study of military service members finds.

Brain cancer is relatively uncommon, occurring in fewer than 1% of people in the United States, researchers said.

But service members who had a moderate or severe brain injury were at 90% increased risk for developing malignant brain cancer, according to analysis of health data for more than 1.9 million veterans.

And penetrating traumatic brain injury -- where an object punctures the skull and enters the brain -- was associated with a tripled risk of brain cancer, results show.

While this was observed only in the military, civilians might be expected to run similar risks from brain injuries, researchers said.

“Traumatic brain injury is not only common in the military, but also in the general population as well,” said lead researcher Dr. Ian Stewart, an Air Force colonel and professor of medicine at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.

“While these results may not be generalizable to the population at large, given that military cohorts are different from the general population in many ways, it is possible that more severe TBI increases risk in the civilian population as well,” Stewart added in a university news release.

However, the study also found that mild traumatic brain injury -- a common concussion -- is not linked to an increased risk of brain cancer.

The study relied on traumatic brain injury data collected by the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, in which service members were tracked more than seven years, on average.

The new study was published Feb. 15 in the journal JAMA Network Open.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about brain cancer.

SOURCE: Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, news release, Feb. 13, 2024

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