BACKGROUND: The fast growing Middle Eastern (ME) population has rarely been studied in the U.S.. The purpose of this study was to compare the epidemiology of primary brain tumors in this ethnic population with the non-Hispanic, non-Middle Eastern White (NHNMW) in California. METHODS: ME cases were identified by surname in the California cancer registry and ME population estimates were based on ancestry. Data for 683 cases of primary brain tumors (429 benign, 238 malignant, 16 uncertain) in the ME and 15,589 cases (8352 benign, 6812 malignant, 425 uncertain) in the NHNMW were available for this study. RESULTS: ME patients were significantly (p < 0.05) younger and their age-adjusted incidence rates per 100,000 for benign tumors of 10.0 in men and 17.6 in women were higher than similar rates of 7.3 and 10.6 in the NHNMW group (p < 0.05). Rates for malignant tumors were similar. Meningioma was the main histology responsible for the observed increase in patients over 40 years of age. Also increased were benign tumors of the pituitary and pineal glands. The overall mortality in patients with benign tumors was significantly lower than malignant tumors. CONCLUSIONS: This study presents a significantly high incidence of benign meningioma in the ME population in California. This may be due to higher susceptibility or exposure of this ethnic group to the risk factor(s) for this neoplasm. Considering the reported causal association of benign meningioma with childhood radiation exposure from Israel, exposure to this risk factor in this ethnic group needs to be evaluated in future studies.
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