Epidemiology and etiology of brain cancer in Africa: A systematic review

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Brain and behavior




Africa; brain cancer; brain tumor; burden of disease; cancer


BACKGROUND: Cancer is a significant threat to public health and a leading cause of morbidity across the globe. Of all cancers, brain cancer can be particularly catastrophic as treatment often fails to achieve the desired degree of effectiveness and diagnosis remains associated with a high mortality rate. Africa, as a continent with resource-limited countries, needs to allocate the necessary proper healthcare infrastructure to significantly reduce cancer rates and improve patient survival. In addition, the relative paucity of data within this field in Africa makes effective management a challenge. OBJECTIVE: This review is aimed at elucidating the currently available evidence base with regard to the epidemiology and etiology of brain cancer within resource-limited African countries. This review hopes to bring to the attention of the wider clinical community the growing burden of brain cancer within Africa and to encourage future research into this field of research. METHODS: The available literature for this Systematic Review was searched on two bibliographic databases, PubMed and Scopus, using an individually verified, prespecified approach. In addition, the Global Cancer Observatory and Global Burden of Disease databases were also utilized. Studies reporting on the epidemiology, etiology, and impact of brain cancer in Africa were suitable for inclusion. The level of evidence of the included studies was considered as per the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine recommendations. RESULTS: Out of the four databases searched, 3848 articles were initially screened rigorously, filtered into 54 articles, and finally assessed qualitatively and quantitatively. We have demonstrated a poor survival rate and lack of proper funds/resources necessary to report, identify, and treat cases, as well as the dearth of comprehensive research on the subject of brain cancer that has become a challenging healthcare concern in many African developing nations. Also, because of the gradual improvement in healthcare facilities and the increasing population within many countries in Africa, the number of patients with central nervous system and intracranial tumors is rising specifically in the elder population. In addition, the population in West Africa is at a higher risk of HIV-related malignancies due to the high prevalence of HIV in West Africa. The burden of brain cancer in Africa is increasing in comparison with the developed parts of the world in which it is decreasing. Moreover, the mismanagement of cancers in Africa leads to higher morbidity and mortality and decreased quality of life. CONCLUSION: This study addresses the burden of brain cancer as a major public health crisis in Africa. Improved treatment modalities and access to screening are required to better address the burden of this disease. Therefore, there is a clear need for more substantial and comprehensive research on etiology, epidemiology, and treatment of brain cancer within Africa to understand its epidemiological distribution and provide a means for managing and reducing the associated morbidity and mortality.


Neurological Surgery