Doctor speaking to veteran about her brain cancer scans in a hospital room

Risk of Brain Cancer Linked to Severe Brain Injuries in Vets

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A study finds prior traumatic brain injuries can increase a veteran’s risk of developing brain cancer.


  • A new cohort study suggests a strong statistical relationship between severe brain injuries in veterans and an increased risk of developing brain cancer.
  • Veterans experiencing brain cancer due to traumatic brain injuries during service can seek legal support from VetLaw for VA disability claims.
  • Researchers reviewed data from about 2 million veterans to identify a higher risk of brain cancer in those with moderate, severe, or penetrating brain injuries.
  • Causes of severe brain injuries in veterans include explosions, slips, trips, falls, combat, and vehicle accidents.
  • VetLaw can assist veterans in filing secondary condition disability claims for brain cancer related to service-connected traumatic brain injuries and pursuing additional compensation if needed.

The military and medical communities have long sought answers for what causes brain cancer among veterans. While there is not a singular or definitive answer, researchers have added a new risk factor to their list. A new study asserts that there is a strong correlation between brain cancer and severe brain injuries in vets.

At VetLaw, we are ready to help vets who are fighting brain cancer as a result of a traumatic brain injury they suffered while serving in the military. You don’t have to manage your VA disability claim alone, especially when the experts of VetLaw are easily accessible. 

We understand that you may be limited by your health and discouraged by the wait time for an appeal. However, we want to encourage you to not give up on securing the VA disability benefits you are owed. Start by calling our team at (855) 500-4672 or submitting a contact form today to schedule a free consultation.

Research Warns Vets With Severe Brain Injuries Are More Likely to Develop Cancer

Researchers from the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences, along with researchers hailing from top-tier research universities across the U.S., joined forces to investigate whether severe brain injuries increased the likelihood of brain cancer in a new study of military service members

They reviewed medical data from about 2 million veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan for insight. The researchers compared the rates of brain cancer among veterans who had never experienced a traumatic brain injury (TBI) to those who had. Among the veterans who had suffered a TBI, those with moderate, severe, or penetrating brain injuries were more prone to brain cancer. 

When regular brain activity was interrupted for an extended period of time in a moderate or severe TBI, researchers found that a veteran’s risk of developing brain cancer skyrocketed by 90%. Penetrating brain injuries, where a foreign object goes into or through the skull and harms the brain, tripled the risk of brain cancer according to the Uniformed Services University-led study.

Military Veterans Are Susceptible to Service-Related Brain Injuries

Severe brain injuries have many possible sources. In the U.S., the leading causes of brain injuries are falls, violent assaults, auto accidents, and guns, according to the CDC. Veterans share some of the same risks. The following are examples of causes of severe brain injuries in vets:

Explosions: Weapons, combustible materials, and flammable substances can all cause explosions. Personnel may be knocked off balance and into solid surfaces or flung against hard surfaces, inflicting traumatic brain injuries.

Slips, trips, and falls: If a vet loses their footing and hits something sharp or hard, or falls from a considerable height, they can suffer a severe brain injury. For example, a paratrooper could sustain a penetrating head injury from a rock or tree branch in an unsafe landing.

Combat: In combat situations, there are many ways for a service member to incur a severe brain injury. For instance, they could be struck while dodging debris in a collapsing building or be hit by a bullet.

Vehicle accidents: While traveling in a military vehicle, personnel are at risk of severe head injuries. If the vehicle stops suddenly, collides, or overturns, they are vulnerable to head trauma. Service members can be thrown against hard surfaces within the vehicle, hit by unsecured objects, or ejected from the vehicle. 

Consider Filing a Secondary Condition Disability Claim For Brain Cancer

Severe brain injuries are among the service-connected injuries or illnesses that often lead to further health complications. Vets who develop brain cancer after experiencing a serious TBI may have cases for Secondary Condition claims with the VA. 

If you are in this situation, you need to be prepared to provide medical evidence that your brain cancer is linked to your service-related TBI to be eligible for VA disability benefits. Although the VA disability claims process can be a hassle, benefits can offer crucial financial support to help cope. 

Given the severity of the diagnosis, vets who are dealing with brain cancer can majorly benefit from securing a disability rating and receiving benefits. Even when a veteran recovers from brain cancer, it is common for them to suffer lasting effects from treatment. Depending on the location and extent of the cancer, veterans may have permanent deficits. 

If a veteran’s VA disability benefits are insufficient for their needs, they may be eligible for additional compensation such as:  

Let VetLaw Provide the Legal Support You Need to Pursue a VA Brain Injury Disability Claim

Whether you are in need of assistance with filing a brain injury disability claim or you want to pursue additional benefits after a brain cancer diagnosis, our team of veterans disability claims attorneys is here for you. Don’t let a denial from the VA stop you from collecting disability benefits; trust VetLaw to get the job done. 

At VetLaw, we are unyielding and relentless when it comes to standing up for our clients. Let us help you file an appeal with the VA to obtain disability benefits. You can reach us at (855) 500-4672 or fill out a contact form to schedule a free consultation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the VA consider brain cancer to be a presumptive condition?

Brain cancer is a presumptive service-connected condition, but only under certain circumstances. For example, according to the PACT Act, veterans who experienced toxic burn pit exposure can claim their brain cancer as a presumptive condition in a VA disability claim.

What is a limitation of the study on severe brain injuries and cancer in vets?

Scientific studies often examine a sample of a population in order to extrapolate information about the larger group. In this case, researchers looked at data from 1.9 million Iraq and Afghanistan military service members to offer conclusions about veterans in general. 

The sample was mostly white, male, and healthy at the time of their traumatic brain injury. The median age was 31. Vets who don’t fit this description may be at a different risk for brain cancer after a severe brain injury.

Are veterans with mild brain injuries at an increased risk of developing brain cancer?

The study did not find a causal link between mild brain injuries and a higher risk of brain cancer in vets. So, if you sustained a concussion while serving, you should still go to the doctor, but you are likely not at any greater risk of developing brain cancer than you were before the accident.