Newswise – Bethesda, Maryland – Military personnel who have suffered a moderate, severe or profound traumatic brain injury (TBI) are at higher risk of subsequent brain cancer, according to a collaborative study led by researchers at the Uniformed Services University (USU) published February 15 get sick. 2024, in Open JAMA Network. On the other hand, in people who have suffered a mild traumatic brain injury or concussion — which is far more common — there may be no association with a subsequent brain tumor diagnosis, the study found.

Brain cancer is relatively rare, occurring in less than one percent of people in the United States. As co-author of the study Dr. Michael Dore, a USU graduate, treated two patients at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth with brain cancer, each with a history of brain cancer. He believed there might be a connection in traumatic brain disease. Because little is known about the risk of brain cancer and the effects of traumatic brain injury, Dore, now a Navy reservist at Duke University, reached out to colleagues at USU because he knew they had access to relevant data. This led to their collaborative efforts with several military and civilian universities and organizations and ultimately to these latest findings.

The study, “Traumatic Brain Injury and Subsequent Risk of Brain Cancer in Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars,” tracked retrospective data from more than 1.9 million veterans across the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs for an average of about 7.2 years. The researchers used data from a joint DoD/VA effort, focusing on TBI as the main variable. They categorized TBI by severity: mild, moderate/severe, and penetrating, based on self-reported loss of consciousness, altered consciousness, or posttraumatic amnesia and billing codes.

The researchers found that military personnel with moderate or severe traumatic brain injury had a 90 percent increased risk of developing malignant brain cancer. The risk of brain cancer in people with penetrating traumatic brain injury was more than three times higher than in people without traumatic brain injury. Mild traumatic brain injuries – which are much more common – were not associated with an increased risk of brain cancer.

“Traumatic brain injuries are common not only in the military but also in the general population,” said Air Force Col (Dr.) Ian Stewart, lead author of the study and professor of medicine at USU. “While these results may not be generalizable to the general population because military cohorts differ from the general population in many ways, it is possible that more severe traumatic brain injury increases risk in the civilian population as well.”

Stewart added that it is reassuring to know that mild traumatic brain injury – which is far more common than moderate, severe or penetrating traumatic brain injury – does not appear to be associated with an increased risk of a subsequent brain tumor diagnosis.

This study was supported by the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs with support from the Department of Defense under the Psychological Health/Traumatic Brain Injury Research Program Long-Term Impact of Military Relevant Brain Injury Consortium Award/W81XWH-18/TBIRP-LIMBIC Awards No. W81XWH1920067 and W81XWH-13-2-0095; MJP’s efforts were also funded by U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Award No. I01 RX003443. The U.S. Army Medical Research Acquisition Center at Fort Detrick is the contracting and administration agency for the procurement. Material support for the VA research team was provided by the VA HSR&D Informatics, Decision-Enhancement, and Analytic Sciences Center of Innovation (CIN 13-414).

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About the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences: The Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, established by an act of Congress in 1972, is the nation’s federal health sciences university and the academic heart of the military health system. USU students are primarily active-duty uniformed officers in the Army, Navy, Air Force and public health who receive specialized training in the areas of tropical and infectious diseases, traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, disaster relief and humanitarian assistance , global health and acute trauma care. USU also has graduate programs in oral biology, biomedical sciences and public health that are committed to excellence in research. The university’s research program covers a wide range of areas important to both the military and public health. Further information about USU and its programs can be found at www.usuhs.edu.

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