Quick Brain Tumor Facts

Today, an estimated 700,000 people in the United States are living with a primary brain tumor, and over 87,000 more will be diagnosed in 2020. 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.


  • An estimated 700,000 Americans are living with a brain tumor
    • 69.8% tumors are benign
    • 30.2% tumors are malignant
  • An estimated 87,240 people will receive a primary brain tumor diagnosis in 2020
    • 61,430 will be benign
      • Meningiomas are the most commonly occurring primary non-malignant brain tumors (accounting for 37.6% of all tumors, and 53.3% of all non-malignant tumors).
      • Approximately 36% of the non-malignant tumors occur in males, and 64% in females
    • 25,800 will be malignant
      • Glioblastoma is the most commonly occurring primary malignant brain tumor (accounting for 14.6% of all tumors, and 48.3% of all malignant tumors)
      • Approximately 55.4% of the malignant tumors occur in males, and 44.6% in females
  • The average survival rate for all malignant brain tumor patients is only 36%
    • Survival rates vary by age and tumor type, generally decreasing with age
    • For non-malignant brain tumor patients, the average five-year survival rate in 91.5%, with pilocytic astrocytomas the highest at 94.4%
    • For the most common form of primary malignant brain tumors, glioblastoma, the five-year relative survival rate is only 6.8%
  • An estimated 18,020 people will die from malignant brain tumors (brain cancer) in 2020


  • Brain tumors are the eight-most common cancer overall among persons age 40+ years, eighth-most among males and fifth-most among females in this age group
  • Brain tumors are the fifth-leading cause of cancer-related death in males age 40-59 years
  • The most prevalent brain tumor types in adults:
    • Meningiomas
    • Gliomas (such as glioblastoma, ependymomas, astrocytomas, and oligodendrogliomas), which make up 81% of malignant brain tumors in adults
  • The five-year relative overall survival rate for adults over the age of 40 diagnosed with a brain tumor is only 21.3%


  • 3,657 children are estimated to be living with a 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 3,540 new cases of childhood brain tumors are expected to be diagnosed in 2020
  • Brain tumors are the most common solid cancer in persons age 0-14 years, as well as when expanded to ages 0-19 years
  • The average survival rate for all malignant pediatric brain tumors is 74.7%
  • Pediatric brain tumors are the leading cause of cancer-related death among children and adolescents ages 0-14 years, as well when expanded to ages 0-19 years, surpassing leukemia
  • The most prevalent brain tumor types in children (0-14):
    • Gliomas, including ependymal tumors, pilocytic astrocytomas, and diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas
    • Embroyonal tumors, including medulloblastoma and AT/RT


  • Approximately 14.7% of all brain tumors occur in the AYA population
  • An estimated 12,090 new cases of AYA brain tumors will be diagnosed in 2020
  • AYA brain tumor patients have higher five-year relative survival rates than adults (40+), but lower rates than children (0-14)
  • Brain tumors are the third-most common cancer overall in individuals age 15-39 years, and 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 third 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 most common brain tumors in the AYA population are: pituitary tumors, meningiomas, and nerve sheath tumors


  • 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
  • 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 increasing1
  • 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 patient2

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. 

**Statistics sourced from the Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States (CBTRUS) in CBTRUS Statistical Facts Report of Primary Brain and Other Central Nervous System Tumors Diagnosed in the United States (www.cbtrus.org, unless otherwise noted.)

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

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