Metastasis to the brain from an extracranial primary is common. Symptomatic metastases have an incidence of around 6 per 100 000, but autopsy studies have revealed an overall incidence in 24% of patients with known cancer. There is a slight male preponderance and the incidence increases with age.

Whilst brain metastases may arise from any primary site, the most common are from the respiratory tract (50%), breast (15%), and melanoma (10%). In (at least) 10% the primary site is unknown. Some cancers which commonly metastasize to other organs rarely involve the brain e.g. prostate, bladder, cervix, and ovary. The reason for this is not known. Rare tumours that have a predilection for the brain include choriocarcinoma and clear cell renal cancer. Carcinomatous meningitis is less common but may occur in:

♦ Cancers of the lung and breast

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