Department of Neurosurgery, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, United States; Program in Global Surgery and Social Change, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, United States. Electronic address: [Email]
While obtaining accurate estimates of tumor incidence volume is a difficult technical problem because it requires collating and analyzing data from dozens of world-wide sources curated under different conditions, our study aims to determine the global incidence of brain and spinal tumors. We analyzed 207 tumor registries on five continents, and calculated age-standardized rates to compare tumor incidence between geographic regions and income levels. Based on data available in current cancer registries, the apparent global incidence of malignant brain tumors was 4.25 cases per 100,000 person-years (95% CI [4.21-4.29]), and varied by region from 6.76 [6.71-6.80] in Europe to 2.81 [2.64-2.99] in Africa. Incidence also varied by World Bank income group, ranging from 6.29 [6.26-6.32] cases per 100,000 in high income countries (HICs), to 4.81 [4.77-4.86] in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). Malignant spinal tumors were much less frequent globally (0.098 [0.093-0.104]) and varied similarly by region and income group. The incidence of brain and spinal tumors varies by region and income group, although case ascertainment bias driven by limited resources in low income regions likely plays a role in variance. The burden of neurosurgical disease in LMICs is large, and similar in scale to HICs.