The causes of glioma, the most common type of primary malignant brain tumors, are poorly understood. This study compares personal histories of head injury and diagnostic radiation procedures of the head and neck among 476 adults newly diagnosed with glioma in the San Francisco Bay Area between August of 1991 and April of 1994 (82% of all those diagnosed during that time period) with 462 age-, gender-, and ethnicity-frequency-matched controls (63% of those eligible from random digit dialing). In addition, limited information was obtained from 101 controls during a brief telephone interview conducted with controls who declined participation in the lengthy in-person interview. Controls who participated in the full interview were much more likely than controls who only completed the telephone interview to report head injury [odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were 2.3 (1.0–4.9) and 3.0 (1.6–5.8) for women and men, respectively]. The OR for any head injury in cases versus controls who completed the full interview was 0.9. However, OR for any head injury in cases versus both control groups was 1.3, 95% CI (1.0–1.7), and the OR for head injury for which the subject sought medical attention was 1.1, 95% CI (0.8–1.4). Among subjects completing the full interview, cases who responded by self-report were less likely than controls to report prior non-dental head and neck X-rays (OR = 0.7; 95% CI: 0.5–1.0). However, stratification by respondents’ history of head injury indicated no difference in history of head and neck X-ray among those without prior head injury; OR 0.9; 95% CI (0.6–1.2). Cases and controls shared a very similar history of dental procedures and frequency of dental visits. These results suggest that head injury requiring medical attention, dental visits, or non-dental diagnostic X-rays to the head and neck are not important contributors to the risk of adult glioma and reveal some of the methodological obstacles encountered in forming convincing conclusions about these risk factors for brain tumors.

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