Quick Brain Tumor Facts

Today, an estimated 700,000 people in the United States are living with a primary brain tumor, and approximately 85,000 more will be diagnosed in 2021. Brain tumors can be deadly, significantly impact quality of life, and change everything for a patient and their loved ones. They do not discriminate, inflicting men, women, and children of all races and ethnicities.

QUICK BRAIN TUMOR FACTS

  • An estimated 700,000 Americans are living with a primary brain tumor
    • Approximately 70% of all brain tumors are benign
    • Approximately 30% of all brain tumors are malignant
    • Approximately 58% of all brain tumors occur in females
    • Approximately 42% of all brain tumors occur in males
  • An estimated 84,170 people will receive a primary brain tumor diagnosis in 2021
    • An estimated 59,040 will be non-malignant (benign)
      • Meningiomas are the most commonly occurring primary non-malignant brain tumors, accounting for 38.3% of all tumors, and 54.5% of all non-malignant tumors
    • An estimated 25,130 will be malignant
      • Glioblastoma is the most commonly occurring primary malignant brain tumor, accounting for 14.5% of all tumors, and 48.6% of all malignant tumors
  • The median age at diagnosis for a primary brain tumor is 60 years
  • The average survival rate for all primary brain tumor patients is 75.2%
    • Survival rates vary by age and tumor type and generally decrease with age
    • For non-malignant brain tumor patients, the average five-year survival rate is 91.7%
    • For malignant brain tumor patients, the five-year relative survival rate following diagnosis is 36%
      • For the most common form of primary malignant brain tumors, glioblastoma, the five-year relative survival rate is only 7.2% and median survival is only 8 months
  • An estimated 18,020 people died from a malignant brain tumor (brain cancer) in 2020, with an estimated 10,190 of these deaths occurring in males and 7,830 occurring in females

BRAIN TUMORS IN CHILDREN (0-14)

  • 13,657 children are estimated to be living with a primary brain tumor in the U.S.
  • Approximately 4.3% of all brain tumors cases diagnosed each year occur in children ages 0-14
  • An estimated 3,460 new cases of childhood brain tumors are expected to be diagnosed in 2021
  • Brain tumors are the most common solid cancer in persons age 0-14 years
  • The five-year relative survival rate for all primary childhood brain tumors is 82.5%
    • For malignant tumors, the five-year survival rate is 75.4%
  • Brain tumors are the leading cause of cancer-related death among children ages 0-14 years
  • The most prevalent brain tumor types in children are:
    • Pilocytic astrocytoma (17.7%)
    • Glioma, malignant (14.5%)
    • Embryonal tumors (12.7%)
      • Medulloblastoma (64.7%)
      • AT/RT (16.6%)
      • PNET (9.5%)

BRAIN TUMORS IN ALL PEDIATRIC POPULATIONS (0-19)

  • Approximately 6% of all brain tumors occur in the pediatric population
    • Approximately 1.8% of all brain tumors occur in the adolescent (15-19) population of pediatric brain tumor patients
  • An estimated 4,630 new cases of pediatric brain tumors will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2021
  • Brain tumors are the most common solid cancer in persons age 0-19 years in the U.S.
  • The five-year relative survival rate for all primary pediatric brain tumors is 76.7%
    • The rate is 64.7% for malignant tumors and 95.4% for non-malignant tumors
  • Pediatric brain tumors are the leading cause of cancer-related death among children and adolescents ages 0-19 years
  • The most prevalent brain tumor types in all pediatric patients are:
    • Pilocytic astrocytoma (14.9%)
    • Glioma, malignant (11.9%)
    • Embryonal tumors (9.9%)
  • The most prevalent brain tumor types in adolescents (15-19) are tumors of the pituitary
  • Overall, for all primary pediatric brain tumors, incidence rates are highest in females compared to males, and Whites compared to other races

BRAIN TUMORS IN ADOLESCENTS AND YOUNG ADULTS (15-39)

  • Approximately 31,299 adolescents and young adults (AYA) are estimated to be living with a brain tumor in the United States
  • Approximately 14.5% of all brain tumors occur in the AYA population
  • An estimated 11,700 new cases of AYA brain tumors will be diagnosed in 2021
  • Brain tumors are the third most common cancer overall in individuals age 15-39 years, the second-most common cancer in males, and third-most common in females in this age group
    • Among adolescents only (15-19), brain tumors are the most common form of cancer, accounting for 21% of diagnoses in this age group each year
  • Brain tumors are the fifth leading cause of cancer-related death overall in this age group
    • Brain tumors are the leading cause of cancer-related death in males aged 20-39 and the fourth leading cause of cancer-related death in females in this age group
  • The five-year relative survival rate for AYA patients diagnosed with a primary brain tumor is 90.4%
    • The rate is 72.5% for malignant tumors and 97.3% for non-malignant tumors
  • The most common brain tumors in the AYA population are: pituitary tumors, meningiomas, and nerve sheath tumors

BRAIN TUMORS IN ADULTS (40+)

  • An estimated 69,950 adults age 40+ will be diagnosed with a primary brain tumor in 2021 in the U.S.
  • Brain tumors are the eight-most common cancer overall among persons age 40+ years, ninth-most among males, and fifth-most among females in this age group
  • Brain tumors are the third-leading cause of cancer-related death in individuals 40 years and older
  • The five-year relative overall survival rate for adults diagnosed with a primary brain tumor is 71.7%
    • The rate is 21.5% for malignant tumors and 90.2% for non-malignant tumors
  • The most prevalent brain tumor types in adults are:
    • Meningiomas
    • Gliomas (such as glioblastoma, ependymomas, astrocytomas, and oligodendrogliomas), which make up 81% of malignant brain tumors in adults

BRAIN TUMORS BY RACE/ETHNICITY 

  • Overall, Blacks have slightly higher incidence rates of primary brain and other CNS tumors compared to other races at 23.88 per 100,000 persons in the United States, followed by:
    • Whites – 23.83/100,000
    • Hispanics – 21.48/100,000
    • Asian/Pacific Islander (API) – 15.04/100,00
    • American Indian/Alaskan Native (AIAN) – 14.23/100,000
  • Incidence of non-malignant brain tumors are highest in Blacks at 19.45/100,000 persons in the US, followed by:
    • Whites – 16.25/100,000
    • Hispanics – 15.78/100,000
    • API – 11.65/100,000
    • AIAN – 10.64/100,000
  • Incidence rates of malignant brain tumors are highest in Whites at 7.58/100,000 persons in the US, followed by:
    • Hispanics – 5.70/100,000
    • Blacks – 4.44/100,000
    • AIAN – 3.54/100,000
    • API – 3.38/100,000
  • Incidence rates for specific brain tumor types vary*:
    • Incidence rates of glioblastoma are twice as high in Whites compared to Blacks
    • Incidence rates of meningioma and pituitary tumors are significantly higher in Blacks compared to Whites
  • Black individuals have poorer survival outcomes compared to White individuals, with the exception of glioblastoma
  • API individuals have better survival rates across many tumor types compared to Whites, with the exception of choroid plexus tumors
  • Hispanic ethnicity is associated with improved survival across most tumor types
  • Tumors of the pituitary and CNS lymphoma are the only tumor types that were higher in Hispanics than in non-Hispanics 

*While there are several tumor types where significant differences in incidence were observed by race and/or ethnicity, in most cases the actual difference in incidence rates is small and may not be biologically significant. 

BRAIN TUMORS BY SEX

  • Overall, incidence rates for all primary brain and CNS tumors are higher in females (58% of diagnoses) than in males (42%)
  • Non-malignant brain tumors occur significantly more often in females (64%) than in males (36%)
  • Malignant brain tumors occur slightly more often in males (56%) than in females (44%)
  • Incidence rates for specific brain tumor types vary, for example, glioblastoma diagnoses are more common in males, while meningioma diagnoses are more common in females
  • Overall, males have higher mortality rates from malignant brain tumors than females, with the exception of glioblastoma, embryonal tumors, and germ cell tumors

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

  • Unlike other types of cancer, primary brain and other CNS tumors are not staged, but are classified according to the WHO Classification of Tumors of the Central Nervous System, which assigns a “grade” of I-IV, based on how aggressive the tumor is predicted to behave, clinically. Grade I tumors are typically non-malignant and the lowest, or least aggressive, grade. While grade IV tumors, primarily glioblastoma, are the highest and most aggressive grade of tumors
  • More than any other cancer, brain tumors can have lasting and life-altering physical, cognitive, and psychological impacts on a patient’s life
  • Malignant brain tumors cause an average of 20 Years of Potential Life Lost (YPLL) for individuals diagnosed as adults, which exceeds most common cancers. Among children ages 0-19 years, brain tumors represent the largest cause of YPLL due to cancer, with a mean YPLL of approximately 80 years [1]
  • The incidence rates for brain tumors are highest among individuals ages 85+, and lowest among children and adolescents ages 0-19 years
  • Despite the number of brain tumors, and their devastating prognosis, there are only five FDA approved drugs – and one device – to treat brain tumors. For many tumor types, surgery and radiation remain the standard of care
  • There has never been a drug developed and approved specifically for malignant pediatric brain tumors
  • The five approved drugs for brain tumors have provided only incremental improvements to patient survival, and mortality rates remain little changed over the past 30 years
  • Each year, approximately 70,000-170,000 cancer patients are diagnosed with brain metastases (metastatic brain tumors/secondary brain tumors), while ~100,000 will die every year as the result of brain metastases. The incidence of brain metastases appears to be increasing [2]
    • Several studies have cited that the percentage of cancer patients who will develop brain metastases is anywhere from 6-28%
    • Approximately 80% of cancers have been associated with the ability to metastasize to the brain
      • These include melanoma (where nearly 50% of cases will metastasize to the brain), lung, breast, renal, and colorectal cancers
  • Brain tumors represent the highest per-patient initial cost of care for any cancer group, with an annualized mean net cost of care approaching $150,000; and the highest annualized mean net costs for last-year-of-life care, relative to other cancers, at $135,000 to $210,000 (depending on age and gender) per patient [3]


NOTES

  • Unless otherwise notes, all statistical figures have been sourced from the Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States (CBTRUS) in CBTRUS Statistical Report: Primary Brain and Other Central Nervous System Tumors Diagnosed in the United States in 2013–2017, Oct. 2020 (www.cbtrus.org)
  • Brain tumor statistics are typically classified as “brain and other central nervous system (CNS) tumors” in research reports. For ease and clarity, in this document we use “brain tumors” as shorthand to include both tumors occurring in the brain and other central nervous system locations. 
  • Unless otherwise noted, all references on this page refer to primary brain tumors, and all stats refer to U.S. populations

FOOTNOTES

[1] Chaturia Rouse, Haley Gittleman, Quinn T. Ostrom, Carol Kruchko, Jill S. Barnholtz-Sloan, Years of potential life lost for brain and CNS tumors relative to other cancers in adults in the United States, 2010, Neuro-Oncology, Volume 18, Issue 1, January 2016, Pages 70–77, https://doi.org/10.1093/neuonc/nov249

[2] Workshop on Product Development for Central Nervous System Metastases

[3] J Natl Cancer Inst. 2011 Jan 19; 103(2): 117–128.

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