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One Type Of Brain Tumor Is More Likely To Strike Obese People

Image of scale for meningioma risk greater with obesityIf your Body Mass Index (BMI) puts you in the overweight or obese category, you already know that losing weight will help your overall health.

Now there’s yet another good reason to maintain a healthy weight: A new study has found that being obese increases your risk for a type of brain tumor called a meningioma.

The study, published in Neurology, is an analysis of more than 6,000 cases of patients with meningioma and glioma brain tumors.

The researchers were trying to see if there is any relationship between body mass (body weight measured by BMI) and the development of these tumors. They also looked for a relationship between physical activity and the development of meningioma and glioma tumors.

BMI is a measurement of weight in relation to height.  A high BMI means a person is heavy for her size, and may mean that she has excessive body fat.

The researchers found that overweight patients were about 21 percent more likely to develop a meningioma tumor compared to patients at a normal BMI. Patients in a higher weight bracket (obese) were 54 percent more likely to develop a meningioma.

meningioma is a type of brain tumor that grows in the lining of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. They are usually benign (not cancerous). They are the most common type of benign brain tumor as far as brain tumors go—brain tumors are rare in general, and they’re still rare in obese people.

The study found a similar link between lack of physical activity and meningioma. People who exercised vigorously were about 27 percent less likely to have a meningioma than people who did not exercise.

This does not mean that being overweight, or not exercising, causes brain tumors. It does mean that people who are overweight and don’t exercise are more likely to have this type of brain tumor than people who are at a healthy BMI and do exercise.

There is some good news in this finding. Doctors still don’t completely understand what causes brain tumors, and so far there’s little a person can do to avoid developing one. It’s good to know that when you work to maintain a healthy BMI and level of physical activity, you may also be cutting your risk of ever developing a meningioma tumor.

Interestingly, the researchers found no such link between the other brain tumor studied, glioma, and body mass or physical activity. Glioma brain tumors grow inside the brain itself, rather than in the lining, and are much more likely to be malignant. Overweight and obese people do not seem to be at a greater risk for these types of tumors.

Meningiomas and gliomas are two of the types of brain tumors treated here at Columbia University Medical Center/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital at our Brain Tumor Center, which is staffed with a multidisciplinary team of neurosurgeons who are the top experts in the field. You can learn more about these neurosurgeons at their links below:

Read the abstract of the study in Neurology here.

Photo Credit: ©Giuseppe Porzani/Dollar Photo Club


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