We questioned mothers of 209 young brain tumor patients and mothers of 209 controls about experiences of possible etiological relevance which they had during pregnancy or which their children had while growing up. Long-suspected brain tumor risk factors such as head trauma and X-rays appeared to be factors for relatively few cases. Increased risk was associated with maternal contact with nitrosamine-containing substances such as burning incense (odds ratio, 3.3; p = 0.005), sidestream cigarette smoke (odds ratio, 1.5; p = 0.03), and face makeup (odds ratio, 1.6; p = 0.02); with maternal use of diuretics (odds ratio, 2.0; p = 0.03) and antihistamines (odds ratio, 3.4; p = 0.002); and with the level of maternal consumption of cured meats (p = 0.008). These drugs contain nitrosatable amines and amides, and the cured meats contain nitrites, chemicals which are precursors of N-nitroso compounds. We propose a hypothesis that brain tumors in these young people are related to in utero exposure to N-nitroso compounds and their precursors, the most potent nervous system carcinogens known in experimental animals.
Supported by Grant R01-CA20571 from the National Cancer Institute.