Can Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors in Children Be Prevented?

Adults can lower their risk of certain cancers with lifestyle changes (such as staying at a healthy weight or quitting smoking), but at this time there are no known ways to prevent most cancers in children.

Other than exposure to radiation, there are no known lifestyle-related or environmental risk factors for brain and spinal cord tumors in children, so at this time there is no way to protect against most of these cancers.

Limiting radiation exposure to the head

For most children with other types of cancer in or near the head, radiation therapy may be given if the doctors feel the benefits outweigh the small risk of developing a brain tumor years later. Still, when it is needed, doctors try to limit the dose of radiation as much as possible.

X-rays or CT scans done before birth or during childhood use much lower levels of radiation than those used for cancer treatment. If there is any increase in risk from these tests, it is likely to be very small, but to be safe, most doctors recommend that pregnant women and children not get these tests unless they are absolutely needed.

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Chang SM, Mehta MP, Vogelbaum MA, Taylor MD, Ahluwalia MS. Chapter 97: Neoplasms of the central nervous system. In: DeVita VT, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA, eds. DeVita, Hellman, and Rosenberg’s Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 10th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2015.

Dorsey JF, Hollander AB, Alonso-Basanta M, et al. Chapter 66: Cancer of the central nervous system. In: Abeloff MD, Armitage JO, Niederhuber JE. Kastan MB, McKenna WG, eds. Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier; 2014.

Last Medical Review: June 20, 2018 Last Revised: June 20, 2018

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