top of page

An estimated 688,000+ people are living with primary tumors of the brain and central nervous system (CNS) in the United States, 138,000 with malignant tumors and 550,000 with nonmalignant tumors.[1] That is up from an estimated 612,000+ people living with a primary brain and CNS tumor in the United States in 2004, 124,000 with malignant tumors and 488,000 with nonmalignant tumors.[2]


  • Prevalence of primary brain tumors is estimated at 221.8 per 100,000 people in 2010, compared with 209 per 100,000 in 2004.1

  • Primary brain and CNS tumors originate in the brain or spinal cord, as opposed to metastatic tumors that originate elsewhere and spread to the brain or spinal cord.

  • In 2012, an estimated 66,290 new primary brain tumor diagnoses will be made in the U.S., 24,300 malignant and 41,980 nonmalignant.

  • An estimated 13,700 deaths are expected to occur this year due to brain tumors, 7,720 males, 5,980 females.[3]

  • About 43% of brain and CNS tumors occur in men and about 57% occur in women.2

  • About 120 types of brain and CNS  tumors have been identified to date, and some have multiple subtypes. Each tumor type/subtype is genetically distinct, making the search for treatments or a cure extremely difficult.

  • Brain tumors are most commonly treated by surgery, followed by radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or both. Little progress has been made in finding new treatments the past two decades.




The most prevalent brain tumor for adults is meningioma, accounting for almost 35% of all brain tumors. Meningioma tumors grow from the tissues, or meninges, covering the brain and spinal cord. Most are nonmalignant but they can grow to the point of being life threatening.


Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most common and deadliest primary malignant brain tumor in adults, accounting for 16.3% of all tumors. GBM tumors grow from the glial lineages of brain cells, which is why they are among a group of tumors called gliomas.  The relative survival rate for GBM is dismal at 35.2% for 1 year, 13.17% for 2 years, and only 4.7% for 5 years. GBM is also classified as a Grade IV (most serious) astrocytoma.




About 7% of brain tumors occur in children age 19 and younger. Although brain tumors are the second-most common malignancy, behind leukemias, in children, they constitute the most common solid tumor.


An estimated 4,200 new malignant and nonmalignant brain tumor diagnoses are expected to occur in children in 2012, with 3,020 in children under the age of 15.


Incidence rates for brain tumors among children 0-19 were much lower than rates for adults during the years 1975 to 2007 (48.47 per 1,000,000 children compared with 24.55 per 100,000 adults), but children's tumors were more likely by far to be malignant (65.2% for children vs. 33.7% for adults).[4]


The most prevalent brain tumor for children is the low-grade pilocytic astrocytoma, accounting for 17.7% of tumors for children aged 0-14 and 11.2% for children 15-19. Pilocytic astrocytomas can develop in the cerebrum, optic nerve pathways, brain stem, or cerebellum.


Another common pediatric brain tumor is the malignant, high-grade medulloblastoma, accounting for 15.1% of tumors in children 0-14. Medulloblastoma arises in the cerebellum and can infiltrate the entire CNS.


Brain tumors are the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in children.







For more information on brain tumors, please visit the National Brain Tumor Society's website at


[1] Porter KR, McCarthy BJ, Freels S et al. Prevalence estimates for primary brain tumors in the United States by age, gender, behavior, and histology. Neuro-Oncology. 2010;12(6):520-527.

[2] According to the Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States (CBTRUS,

[3] CBTRUS. CBTRUS statistical report: Primary brain and central nervous system tumors diagnosed in the United States in 2004-2008. March 23, 2012 Revision. Table 21.

[4] Kohler BA, Ward E, McCarthy BJ et al. Annual report to the nation on the status of cancer, 1975-2007, featuring tumors of the brain and other nervous system. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2011;103:714-736.

bottom of page