They found that the geographical distribution of glioma cases in a province of the Netherlands over a nine-year period was consistent with infectious agents playing a role in the development of brain cancer.
Researchers used a cancer database to identify within 0.1km the addresses of 1,545 patients diagnosed with glioma between 1983 and 2001 in the North Brabant region of the Netherlands at the time of diagnosis.
They analysed this data to see if there was any seasonal variation in the number of glioma diagnoses. These would be expected if glioma risk was increased by the kinds of infectious agents which exhibit seasonal epidemicity, such as the common cold and flu.
They also looked for clusters of cases occurring in a small area over a short period of time since these could be evidence that 'mini-epidemics' of infections were contributing to glioma risk.
Although they found no evidence of seasonal variation in glioma diagnoses, researchers did find evidence for transient clustering of glioma cases.
They concluded that this was consistent with glioma developing a short time after exposure to an infectious disease.
One of the authors, Dr Richard McNally, from the School of Clinical Medical Sciences at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, said: 'Links between infections and brain cancer have been tenuous until now. Using this population-based data from parts of the Netherlands we found evidence of space time clustering.
'This is consistent with glioma having an infectious aetiology, although it does not prove it.'
Dr McNally said the mechanisms behind the association were as yet unclear.
But he added that, in children at least, the mechanism could be similar to the one that links exposure to some infectious agents with an increased risk of lymphoma.