This chapter begins with a discussion of the taxonomy of primary brain tumors, with a focus on gliomas, meningiomas, and grading systems for these tumors. It discusses methodological challenges for studies of brain tumor incidence including variations in diagnostic practices. It summarizes descriptive epidemiology studies of brain tumor incidence and mortality by age, sex, histologic type, and ethnicity. Factors associated with survival are discussed including histologic grade, tumor location, and extent of surgical resection. Much work remains to discover the causes of the majority of human brain tumors, as established risk factors account for only a small proportion of these tumors. The chapter critiques evidence regarding possible risk factors for brain tumors, including genetic predisposition, ionizing radiation, chemical carcinogen exposure, electromagnetic fields, infections, head trauma, smoking, and diet.
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