|NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH
||National Cancer Institute|
FOR RESPONSE TO INQUIRIES
Tuesday, September 1, 1998
NCI Press Office
The researchers also looked at the type of brain tumors that were being diagnosed, comparing them before and after the 1984 to 1985 time frame. After 1985, they found more low-grade (slow growing or less aggressive) gliomas in the cerebrum and the brain stem - tumors that have since been shown to be more easily diagnosed by MRI. Additionally, from 1973 to 1994, the death rate from childhood brain tumors did not go up, but actually decreased slightly, another indication that the increased incidence in brain tumors is a difference in diagnosis, not a true increase in cases.
While the reported analyses do not rule out the possibility that environmental agents may influence risk for the disease, they suggest that such factors are likely to be responsible for little, if any, of the observed increase in brain tumor incidence. Direct radiation treatments to the head are the only established risk factor for the disease.
"While this research shows that the incidence of brain cancers in children does not appear to be rising, these tumors remain a major cause of cancer-related death in children," said Malcolm Smith, M.D., Ph.D., head of the Pediatric Section of NCI's Clinical Investigations Branch and lead author of the study. Brain tumors are the second most frequent type of cancer in children, ranking only behind the leukemias. "NCI remains committed to finding the causes of brain tumors, as well as to identifying superior treatments and methods of detection."
NCI is working to establish a Pediatric Brain Tumor Clinical Trials Consortium. The Consortium will include pediatric brain tumor experts from approximately eight institutions that will work together to evaluate innovative treatment approaches for children with brain cancers. These institutions are being selected in a competitive process that will be completed by the Spring of 1999. NCI is also working with other government agencies to develop a National Network for Research on Cancer in Children as part of a presidential initiative on Children's Health and the Environment. The Network will be a national resource to support definitive studies on the causes of childhood cancers.
The report is published in the Sept. 2 issue of the Journal of the
National Cancer Institute, and uses data from NCI's Surveillance, Epidemiology,
and End Results (SEER) Program. The SEER Program collects cancer incidence
data from five state-wide and four metropolitan-area registries, representing
9.5 percent of the U.S. population. SEER uses cancer mortality data from
the National Center for Health Statistics, which includes 100 percent of
the United States. Primary malignant brain tumors diagnosed in children
ages 0 to 14 from 1973 to 1994 were analyzed in this report.