Different studies suggest that intake of foods and supplements including Curcumin, fish, fresh fruits (such as avocado and apricot) and vegetables, and Vitamin E may help in reducing the risk of meningioma. Intake of Vitamin D-rich foods may also help in reducing the symptoms such as brain edema in Meningioma patients scheduled for surgery treatment. However, taking foods such as salted fish and vegetables, and processed meat containing N-nitrosamines; smoking cigarettes and using exogenous hormones (commonly found in oral contraceptives or menopausal hormone therapy) and other hormonal therapies such as cyproterone acetate, (CPA) may not be favorable and can increase the risk of this cancer. Hence, following a personalized nutrition/diet plan including the right foods and supplements is important when it comes to cancer care and prevention of brain tumors such as meningioma.
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What is Meningioma?
A meningioma is a tumor that starts in the meninges – the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. About 90% of meningiomas are non-cancerous tumors. Most of the meningiomas are usually slow growing. One of the most common risk factors for this tumor is ionizing radiation to the head. People who have a genetic/hereditary condition called type II neurofibromatosis are also at an increased risk of developing meningioma.
The global incidence rate of meningioma is 0.21 per 100000 persons per year (Rebecca Leece et al, Neuro Oncol., 2017). It is more common in women than men. It is mostly diagnosed in those aged 65 years and above, although it can occur at any age. Cancerous meningiomas account for slightly more than 1% of all primary brain cancers.
In the United States, meningioma accounts for more than 37% of primary brain tumors and 12% of all spinal cord tumors. It is also estimated that around 34,000 people will be newly diagnosed with meningioma this year.(https://www.cancer.net/)
Meningioma falls in one of the following 3 grades. The higher grade meningiomas are rare.
- Grade I – tumor grows slowly.
- Grade II /Atypical Meningoma – tumor grows more quickly
- Grade III /Anaplastic Meningioma – tumor grows and spreads very quickly
What are the Symptoms of Meningioma?
Since meningiomas grow extremely slowly, there may not be any symptoms initially. However, as meningioma grows, it can cause symptoms as it may press on certain areas of the brain which might affect the proper functioning of that area of the brain, or increase pressure inside the skull (intracranial pressure).
Following are some of the symptoms of meningioma:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Vision problems
- Speech problems
- Hearing loss or ringing in the ears
- Change in personality
- Weakness in arms or legs
What are the Treatment Options for Meningioma?
The treatment for meningioma patients is decided by the oncologist based on different factors such as tumor type and stage, tumor location, extent of spread, age of the patient, medical history and general health of the patient.
If possible, surgery is usually considered as the first treatment option for cancerous meningioma. Patients with atypical and anaplastic meningiomas may also receive radiation treatment after surgery to reduce or delay the recurrence of these grade II and III meningiomas. Chemotherapy, targeted therapy, or immunotherapy drugs are also possible treatment options for meningioma.
What is the Role of Diet, Foods and Supplements in Meningioma?
When it comes to cancer care and prevention of meningioma, taking the right diet which includes the right foods and supplements becomes important. Here are some example studies which evaluated the association between different foods and supplements and meningioma risk or treatment.
1. Vitamin D foods may Reduce Brain Edema
A study done by the Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran in Iran evaluated the association between serum levels of Vitamin D (25(OH)D) before surgery and peritumoral brain edema in patients with meningioma. The study involved a total of 112 patients. The study found that for every 1 ng/mL increase of serum Vitamin D (25(OH)D), brain edema in these patients decreased by approximately 4%. (Melika Hajimohammadebrahim-Ketabforoush et al, Nutr Cancer., 2020)
The study indicates that including Vitamin D rich foods (such as fish and mushrooms) as part of the diet may be protective for peritumoral brain edema of meningioma.
2. Fish intake may Reduce the Cancer Risk
An international study of adult diet and brain tumor risk done by the Columbia University in New York found that eating fresh fish may be associated with decreased meningioma risk, but only among younger people aged less than 55 years. The study also found that eating cheese may be associated with reduced risk of this cancer. Surprisingly, they found that citrus fruit intake may be associated with an increased risk among younger people aged less than 55 years. Unlike glioma, no clear patterns of dietary associations were observed for meningiomas. (Mary Beth Terry et al, Ann Epidemiol., 2009)
3. Curcumin may have Anti-Cancer effects on Human Meningioma Cells – Experimental Study
An experimental study done by the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, Clinical Neuroendocrinology Group, Germany found that Curcumin, the active ingredient of the spice Turmeric, significantly reduced the proliferation of meningioma cells and induced apoptosis or cell death of human meningioma cell lines. The study suggested that Curcumin may be a potential food ingredient that can reduce the proliferation and kill the meningioma cancer cells. (S Curic et al, J Neurooncol., 2013)
The effectiveness of Curcumin in treating meningioma needs to be confirmed in human trials.
4. Fresh Vegetables, Fruits and Vitamin E rich foods may Reduce, and Salted vegetables and Fish may Increase Brain Cancer Risk
Analysis of dietary information from a hospital-based study conducted in the Heilongjiang Province of northeast China between May 1993 and May 1995 which involved 129 brain cancer cases including 73 gliomas and 56 meningiomas, and 258 matched controls found that salted foods, including salted vegetables and fish may have a significant role in developing brain cancer in northern China. The study also found that high consumption of fresh vegetables, fruits and foods rich in vitamin E may decrease brain cancer risk. (J Hu et al, Int J Cancer., 1999)
Including fresh fruits such as Avocado and Apricot as part of the diet may be beneficial for meningioma cancer care.
5. N-nitrosamines found in Processed Meat may Increase the Cancer Risk
A multi-center population based study done by the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg based on data from 81 meningioma cases and 418 randomly selected controls found that consumption of N-nitrosamines found in processed meat increased the risk of meningioma, although to a less pronounced extent as compared to glioma. (H Boeing et al, Int J Cancer., 1993)
6. Drinking Coffee or Tea may not increase or decrease the Cancer Risk
Researchers from the Imperial College in London, United Kingdom evaluated the association between coffee and tea intake and the risk of glioma and meningioma based on data collected from men and women into a large European cohort study, the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC). During a follow up of 8.5 years, 343 cases of glioma and 245 cases of meningioma were newly diagnosed in 9 countries. The study found no association between coffee and tea consumption and the risk of meningioma. (Dominique S Michaud et al, Am J Clin Nutr., 2010)
Other Factors associated with Meningioma Risk
1. Use of Exogenous Hormones may Increase the Cancer Risk
A study done by the Imperial College in London, United Kingdom found that the use of exogenous hormones (commonly found in oral contraceptives or menopausal hormone therapy) may increase meningioma risk. The researchers however highlighted that these findings need further confirmation, as it may also be hypothesized due to the fact that meningiomas are almost twice as common in women as in men. (Dominique S Michaud et al, Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev., 2010)
2. A hormonal therapy used for Prostate Cancer may Increase the Cancer Risk
A study done by the researchers from Nantes, France involving 388 patients, of which 277 were treated by surgery and 111 by radiotherapy for intracranial meningioma between 2014 to 2017 found that patients with a history or current use of a hormonal therapy called cyproterone acetate (CPA) had significantly more meningiomas and were much younger during the onset of this disease. (Edouard Samarut et al, J Neurooncol. 2021)
3. Cigarette smoking Increases the Cancer Risk in Men
A meta-analysis done by the researchers from the Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, found an interesting association between cigarette smoking and meningioma. The study found that this association varied significantly by gender, with the women who smoked at a slightly reduced risk and men who smoked at a greater risk of meningioma. (Elizabeth B Claus et al, Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev., 2012)
Several observational and experimental studies found that taking certain foods and supplements including Vitamin D-rich foods, fish, Curcumin, fresh fruits (avocado and apricot) and vegetables and Vitamin E may help in reducing the risk of meningioma or help with reducing symptoms such as brain edema in Meningioma patients (as observed in the Vitamin D study) before undergoing surgery treatment. However, consuming foods such as salted fish and vegetables, processed meat containing N-nitrosamines; cigarette smoking and use of exogenous hormones and therapies may increase the risk of meningioma. Hence, it is important to include the right foods and supplements as part of the diet to improve treatment efficacy, reduce symptoms, or reduce the risk of meningioma.
Cancer patients often have to deal with different chemotherapy side effects which affect their quality of life and look out for alternative therapies for cancer. Taking the right nutrition and supplements based on scientific considerations (avoiding guesswork and random selection) is the best natural remedy for cancer and treatment related side-effects.