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Poverty raises brain tumor risk, study finds

Poor people are more likely to develop brain tumors but it is unclear why, researchers reported.
/ Source: Reuters

Poor people are more likely to develop brain tumors but it is unclear why, researchers reported Tuesday.

The study of Michigan residents on Medicaid, the government health care plan for the needy, may not reflect the full population but raises questions about the possible causes of brain cancer, the researchers said.

Paula Sherwood and colleagues at Michigan State University studied 1,006 cases of brain cancer for their report, published in the latest issue of the journal Neurology.

They found the overall rate of brain cancer in Michigan was 8.1 cases per 100,000 people over two years. Of those with low incomes -- defined as qualifying for Medicaid -- there were 14.2 cases per 100,000 people.

For their study, Sherwood’s team did not include patients under 25 or over the age of 84.

Men under the age of 44 on Medicaid were at least four times more likely to develop brain cancer than wealthier men. Women in the same category were 2.6 times as likely to develop brain tumors.

Sherwood said it was possible but unlikely that some people with brain tumors may spend all their money on treatment and thus become poor.

“The short survival time for this type of cancer combined with the Medicaid requirement that you spend your assets and be disabled for at least 12 months may make it difficult for a middle-class person to become eligible for Medicaid during the two-year period of the study,” she said in a statement.

Poverty may accelerate onset of cancer
So what else is happening?

“Poverty may accelerate the onset of cancer in people who are biologically predisposed to develop it,” Sherwood said.

“Low-income status is also associated with environmental factors such as exposure to toxins, quality of nutrition and shelter, and education and health factors. Additional, larger studies may help shed some light.”

Nationally, 18,400 people will be diagnosed with brain cancer this year in the United States and nearly 12,700 will die of it, the American Cancer Society says.