The team looked at data from the Eindhoven Cancer Registry. They analysed results for the East and West of the 5000 square-kilometre province separately. They found an irregular pattern where many cases occurred at the same time in men and women over 15-years old in the East but not in the West. Around seven per cent more cases of brain tumours were observed to occur in 'clusters' than would be expected by chance.
This is the first study to carry out this sophisticated form of statistical analysis known as 'clustering' in brain tumours in adults.
The results of this work are consistent with earlier research led by Dr McNally into childhood cancer in North West England. This discovered patterns in the diagnosis of two types of cancer - leukaemia and brain tumours - in that they tended to occur together at similar times and geographical locations.
Dr McNally, who also works with Newcastle University's School of Population and Health Sciences, added: "Future research should try to identify specific infections which could potentially be a trigger. If these are found, it could lead to future preventative measures."
Professor John Toy, Cancer Research UK's medical director, said: "Brain cancer is rare, accounting for less than two per cent of all new adult cancers diagnosed in the UK each year. These findings suggest a possible link between infection and this type of the disease but by no means provide proof."
*The team included UK and Dutch researchers. In the UK, they came from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne and The University of Manchester/Central Manchester and Manchester Children's University Hospitals NHS Trust. In Holland the researchers came from St Elisabeth Hospital, Tilburg, Erasmus MC, Rotterdam, and Comprehensive Cancer Centre South, Eindhoven.