Glioblastoma Risk Factors

Glioblastoma risk factors are specific characteristics that can make a person more likely to develop this type of brain cancer. While the precise causes of glioblastoma are largely unknown, researchers have identified a list of characteristics that many patients have in common.

While risk factors can be helpful for determining a person’s likelihood of developing glioblastoma, it’s important to remember that:

  • Risk factors do not necessarily cause cancer to develop (for instance, reaching a certain age does not trigger cancerous changes within the body)
  • Many people who have one or more glioblastoma risk factors never develop cancer
  • Some people develop glioblastoma without having any of the known risk factors

One of the most notable glioblastoma risk factors is prior radiation exposure – especially a history of receiving radiation therapy to the head or neck. People who have undergone radiation therapy as a treatment for leukemia, fungal infections of the scalp or previous cancers of the brain have an elevated risk of developing glioblastoma.

Other risk factors include being male, being 50 years of age or older and having chromosomal abnormalities on chromosome 10 or 17. Certain genetic syndromes, such as neurofibromatosis (type 1 and type 2) tuberous sclerosis and von Hippel-Lindau disease can also make a person more likely to develop brain cancer. Some studies have suggested that excessive alcohol consumption may also increase a person’s risk, although smoking does not seem to be strongly associated with the development of glioblastoma.

People who have one or more of these risk factors take special note of headaches, memory loss, speech problems and issues with their vision. Should any of these warning signs develop, they should be promptly discussed with a medical professional. Although glioblastomas are relatively rare, an oncologist who specializes in brain cancer – such as those in the Neuro-Oncology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center – can assess a patient’s symptoms and perform any necessary diagnostic testing.  

To learn more about glioblastoma risk factors or to schedule a visit with a member of our brain cancer treatment team, call 1-888-MOFFITT. You can also submit a new patient registration form online. Referrals are not required to make an appointment.