Brain tumors are the fifth most prevalent cancer type in the United States, ranking behind female breast cancer, prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, and melanoma, according to a study published in Cancer. 

To determine the prevalence of brain tumors compared with other cancers, researchers examined 2000-2019 data from the Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States. The incidence of non-brain tumor cancers was obtained from the United States Cancer Statistics Database (2001-2019). Additional data were obtained from SEER.

The researchers estimated that there were 1,323,121 individuals in the US with a diagnosis of primary brain tumor still living as of December 31, 2019. Nonmalignant brain tumors accounted for 85.3% of these cases. 

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Adults aged 65 years or older accounted for 43.5% of all brain tumor cases, followed by adults aged 40 to 64 years (40.0%), adolescents and young adults aged 15 to 39 years (14.3%), and children younger than 15 years (2.1%). 

Brain tumors were the fifth most prevalent cancer type both overall and among adults aged 40 to 64 years.

In adolescents and young adults, brain tumors were the most prevalent cancer type, with malignant tumors accounting for 35.0% of cases.

In children, brain tumors were the second most prevalent cancer type after leukemia. In this age group, 65.4% of brain tumors were malignant. 

In adults aged 65 years and older, brain tumors were the seventh most prevalent cancer type, but 94.1% of these tumors were nonmalignant.

Women had a higher overall prevalence of brain tumors than men, with a female-to-male prevalence ratio of 1.68. However, malignant histopathologies were more prevalent in men of all age groups. 

“[Brain tumors] contribute significantly to the cancer burden in the United States, particularly among those younger than age 65 years,” the researchers concluded. “Understanding complete prevalence is crucial for monitoring cancer burden to inform clinical research and public policy.”


Neff C, Price M, Cioffi G, et al. Complete prevalence of primary malignant and non-malignant brain tumors in comparison to other cancers in the United States. Cancer. Published online May 18, 2023. doi:10.1002/cncr.34837

This article originally appeared on Cancer Therapy Advisor