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BACKGROUND: Several studies report increases in the incidences of primary central nervous system (CNS) tumors. The reasons for this are unclear. METHODS: Data on all 188 340 individuals diagnosed with a primary CNS tumor in England (1993-2017) were obtained from the National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service. Data on all computerized tomography (CT) head and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans in England (2013-2017) were obtained from the National Health Service Digital. Age-sex-standardized annual incidence rates per 100 000 population (ASR) were calculated by calendar year, tumor behavior, tumor location, and method of diagnosis. Temporal trends were quantified using average annual percent change (AAPC). RESULTS: The ASR for all CNS tumors increased from 13.0 in 1993 to 18.6 in 2017 (AAPC: +1.5%, 95% CI: 1.3, 1.7). The ASR for malignant tumors (52% overall) remained stable (AAPC: +0.5%, 95% CI: -0.2, 1.3), while benign tumors (37% overall) increased (AAPC: +2.6%, 95% CI: 1.2, 4.0). Among the 66% of benign tumors that were microscopically confirmed, the ASR increased modestly (AAPC: +1.3%, 95% CI: 0.5, 2.1). However, among the 25% of benign tumors that were radiographically confirmed, the ASR increased substantially (AAPC: 10.2%, 95% CI: 7.9, 12.5), principally driven by large increases in those who are aged 65+ years. The rate of CT head scans in Accident & Emergency (A&E) increased during 2013-2017, with especially large increases in 65-84 and 85+-year-olds (AAPCs: +18.4% and +22.5%). CONCLUSIONS: Increases in CNS tumor incidence in England are largely attributable to the greater detection of benign tumors. This could be the result of the increasing use of neuroimaging, particularly CT head scans in A&E in people who are aged 65+ years.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





1177 - 1192