Does Head Trauma Increase the Risk of Brain Cancer?

June 26, 2018

A head trauma can lead to many detrimental effects – a victim may initially experience blurriness, loss of vision, mental confusion, or persistent headaches. As the symptoms of a brain injury fully evolve, patients may also notice issues that persist over time. Some of the most common include difficulty controlling emotions, cognitive dysfunction, and deviations from previous behavior.
The effect of a brain injury can be acute or chronic and permanent. Additionally, there is still some question among researchers as to whether repeated head trauma can increase the risk of some kinds of cancers.

The Dangers of Repeated Concussions

It’s no secret that multiple head traumas, such as concussions, can have debilitating long-term consequences. Perhaps the most famous complication is chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which has been a recent center of controversy surrounding the NFL. The condition, which results from multiple traumas like head-on tackles, can have several detrimental effects such as memory loss and unpredictable patterns of behavior. In certain cases, victims can present a danger to themselves and others.
CTE is perhaps the most widely publicized side effect of repeated head trauma, and it’s been noted in football players, members of the armed forces, and other professions that involve physical violence around the head. The danger of repeated concussions with regard to CTE is well documented; however, another association – one between concussions and brain cancer – is less clear.

Can Concussions Cause Cancer?

Scientists and public health researchers have engaged in many studies to see if a link between certain types of brain cancer and multiple head traumas exists. Perhaps the most comprehensive study on the subject is from all the way back in 1979, which tracked 3000 victims of multiple head traumas to see if they were more likely to develop intracranial tumors later in life. During this longitudinal study, researchers found no compelling evidence that head trauma significantly increased the likelihood for brain cancer. While they could not rule out the risk of cancer for this vulnerable population, the risk of this occurrence, if it existed, would be very small.
On the other hand, some studies have found a modest association between multiple head traumas and meningioma, a type of tumor that forms in the meninges of the brain and spinal cord. However, these tumors are noncancerous in most cases. Symptoms of a meningioma include:

  • Changes in vision
  • Headache
  • Hearing loss
  • Weakness or numbness in select areas of the body
  • Loss of smell

Brain Tumors and Seizures

A compelling link exists between the onset of seizures and certain types of brain cancer. However, researchers don’t know if the seizure activity itself, or anti-seizure medication, plays a role in the increased risk for brain cancer.

Known Risk Factors of Brain Cancer

Based on the current body of research, no compelling evidence suggests that multiple head traumas play a role in the development of cancerous tumors. On the other hand, there are certain things that do increase risk of brain cancer, including:

  • Exposure to certain infections and viruses such as Epstein-Barr
  • Family history and inherited diseases such as Turcot Syndrome
  • Prolonged exposure to dangerous substances such as industrial solvents
  • Ionizing radiation exposure to the head

Head traumas have a well-established set of negative side effects, from memory loss to changes in behavior. In severe cases, a victim may suffer from cognitive dysfunction or emotional instability. Multiple sustained traumas to the head can result in CTE, a debilitating condition for both the victim and his or her family. However, researchers have yet to establish a definitive link between brain cancer and multiple head traumas. What little risk of tumors does exist is from meningioma, which are benign in most cases.
If you suffered a brain injury in an accident from someone’s negligence, contact the San Diego injury attorneys at Estey & Bomberger, LLP about your case today! (619) 295-0035