Do College Graduates Get More Brain Tumors?

Education Concept.It is a somewhat shocking and unusual question, sure, but a new study suggests that this may be true.  According to an analysis of medical data from more than 4.3 million Swedish residents, those with a higher education or who have “better jobs” appear to be more vulnerable to one of three types of brain tumor: glioma, meningioma, or acoustic neuroma.  Glioma are cancerous but meningiomas are, most of the time, noncancerous tumors. Acoustic neuromas are noncancerous tumors that generally effect nerves related hearing and balance.

Study author Amal Khanolkar is a research associate with the University College London Institute of Child Health.  He remarks that he and his colleagues had long been interested in investigating health inequalities among socioeconomic classes.

In an interview with CBS News, he said, “Previous studies have showed conflicting results on possible associations between socioeconomic position and brain tumor. This could be due to study design. We decided to investigate this using the appropriate study design.”

Specifically, the study showed that men who have at least three years of college were nearly 20 percent more likely to receive this diagnosis.

Khanolkar goes on to say that the study might simply associate higher education with higher detection rate (and not higher affliction rate).  He notes, “People with higher education are perhaps more likely to detect symptoms and seek medical care earlier on,” adding that “consistent associations between indicators of socioeconomic position and brain tumors,” particularly for glioma and in men when compared with women.

But the study also found that single men were less likely to receive a glioma brain tumor diagnosis.  Perhaps, he suggests, “Spouses might notice symptoms in their partners ensuing timely medical access.”

Indeed, the study only really shows an association between the two and not, necessarily, a direct link.  Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Nancy and Buster Alvord Brain Tumor Center director, neuroscientist, Dr. Eric Holland notes this study only shows a correlation.

Accordingly, the National Brain Tumor Society said, in a statement, “An ‘association’ does not constitute cause or risk factor, and does not necessarily infer that education, money, and/or marriage have any prospective effect on whether individuals, or groups of people, may develop a brain tumor.”