Having a university degree is potentially associated with having a brain tumour, reports a recent study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

While the research may provide new insight on brain tumours, the researchers caution that their study is just observational; that is, causation has not been shown yet.

Brain tumors are abnormal growths in the brain. It usually begins with genetic and cellular abnormalities. Brain tumours can manifest as nausea, hearing problems, and headaches and escalate to loss of vision, seizures, and a decline in motor functions.

While some risk factors – like age, radiation, carcinogens, and genetics – have been discovered, no evidence has yet connected brain tumours to educational attainment.

In their study, at least 4.3 million Swedes born between 1911 and 1961 were surveyed. Information like marital status, economic status, educational attainment, and occupation were obtained from the national census.

The subjects were then monitored for brain tumours from 1993 to 2010. The manuscript reports that 5,735 men and 7,101 women were diagnosed with brain tumour in this interval.

The researchers found that men with at least a three-year university-level education had a 19 percent increased risk of brain tumour compared to men without at least the same level of education.

On the other hand, women with a similar degree of education had 23 percent and 16 percent higher risks of glioma and meningioma, respectively, compared to other women with lower educational attainments.

One's profession is also a factor for increased risk. Investigators found that professional and managerial jobs had 20 percent and 50 percent higher risks of glioma and acoustic neuroma – a non-cancerous tumour that may affect hearing and balance – respectively.

Professional and managerial women, on the other hand, had a 26 percent and 14 percent increased risk of glioma and meningioma, respectively, when compared to those with manual jobs.

Income, apparently, is connected to brain tumours but only in men. Those with higher disposable incomes had a 14 percent higher chance of developing brain tumor.

Despite being conducted over a large sample and a long period, the researchers insist that causality has yet to be established. Also, lifestyle information, which may have more significant impact on brain tumour development, was noticeably left out of the criteria.

Regardless, researchers argue that their data are statistically sound. This, they say, underscores the importance and power of population studies. MIMS