Women Who Reach Puberty at an Older Age More Likely to Develop Brain Tumors, Moffitt Study Shows

June 16, 2014

TAMPA, Fla. – Women who begin menstruation at an older age have a significantly increased risk of developing a brain tumor; a Moffitt Cancer Center study shows. The results are part of a large multicenter study to determine potential risk factors associated with the development of glioma and meningioma, two types of brain tumors.  

Approximately 23,000 people are diagnosed with brain and nervous system cancers in the United States every year.  Glioma is the most common and aggressive brain tumor.  Meningiomas, also a type of brain cancer, are typically benign; however, they tend to be associated with poor health and are likely to recur after surgery.

“Interestingly, gliomas are more common in men while meningiomas are more common in women, and for both tumors, steroid hormones are thought to influence risk, though there is surprisingly limited supportive data,” said Kathleen M. Egan, Sc.D., lead study investigator and senior member of the Cancer Epidemiology Program at Moffitt. “Our study included a larger number of brain cancer patients than in many previous published studies focused on hormonal and reproductive risk factors in women.” 

Researchers analyzed patient records from more than 500 glioma and 240 meningioma cases at five cancer centers throughout the Southeast. They compared these results to approximately 700 age-matched control subjects from similar geographic areas and analyzed potential risk factors such as oral contraceptive use, and menstruation and child birth history.

Women who begin their menstrual cycle at age 15 or older have an increased risk of developing glioma than women who begin menstruation at 12 or younger, the data show.  This suggests that the higher exposure to estrogen throughout the lifetime of women who began menstruation earlier may protect them from acquiring glioma.   

Other findings show that women who took oral contraceptives were less likely to develop glioma, and patients who underwent natural menopause had a higher risk of developing meningioma than pre-menopausal women.  

The risk of acquiring glioma and meningioma was not significantly associated with number of children, age at first birth, age at menopause, or total years of menstruation.

The study was published in the April 4 issue of Journal of Neuro-Oncology and supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (R01 CA116174).

About Moffitt Cancer Center
Located in Tampa, Moffitt is one of only 41 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers, a distinction that recognizes Moffitt’s excellence in research, its contributions to clinical trials, prevention and cancer control. Moffitt is the No. 1 cancer hospital in Florida and has been listed in U.S. News & World Report as one of “America’s Best Hospitals” for cancer since 1999. With more than 4,200 employees, Moffitt has an economic impact on the state of nearly $2 billion. For more information, visit MOFFITT.org, and follow the Moffitt momentum on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.