A risk factor is any factor that is associated with an increased chance of developing a particular health condition, such as sarcoma. There are different types of risk factors, some of which can be modified and some that cannot.
It should be noted that having one or more risk factors does not mean a person will develop sarcoma. Many people have at least one risk factor but will never develop sarcoma, while others with sarcoma may have had no known risk factors.
Even if a person with sarcoma has a risk factor, it is usually hard to know how much that risk factor contributed to the development of their disease.
Risk factors for soft tissue sarcoma include:
- certain inherited disorders – retinoblastoma, neurofibromatosis (von Recklinghausen disease), tuberous sclerosis (Bourneville disease), familial adenomatous polyposis (Gardner syndrome), Li–Fraumeni syndrome, Werner syndrome, nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome (Gorlin syndrome)
- previous radiation therapy for other cancers, such as breast cancer or lymphoma
- exposure to some chemicals (thorium dioxide, vinyl chloride, arsenic)
- having lymphoedema (swelling) in the arms or legs for a long time – lymphoedema can occur when lymph nodes have been removed or damaged by radiation therapy.
Risk factors for osteosarcoma include:
- certain inherited disorders – Bloom syndrome, Diamond–Blackfan anaemia, retinoblastoma, Li–Fraumeni syndrome, Paget disease, Rothmund–Thomson syndrome, Werner syndrome, hereditary multiple osteochondromas (benign bone tumours)
- previous radiation therapy
- previous treatment with anticancer medicines called alkylating [JS1] agents
- age and height..
Studies of children with Ewing tumours have not found any links to radiation, chemicals, other environmental exposures or inherited disorders.
Most gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GISTs) have no clear cause and are not inherited. However, inherited disorders increase the risk in some families. These disorders include primary familial GIST syndrome, neurofibromatosis (von Recklinghausen disease) and Carney–Stratakis syndrome.
Lifestyle factors such as smoking, diet and exercise are not risk factors for sarcoma.
National Cancer Institute (2017). Adult soft tissue sarcoma treatment (PDQ®) – patient version. https://www.cancer.gov/types/soft-tissue-sarcoma/patient/adult-soft-tiss...
American Cancer Society (2018). Soft tissue sarcoma. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/soft-tissue-sarcoma.html
National Comprehensive Cancer Network (2018). NCCN guidelines for patients: soft tissue sarcoma. https://www.nccn.org/patients/guidelines/sarcoma/index.html
National Cancer Institute (2018). Osteosarcoma and malignant fibrous histiocytoma of bone treatment (PDQ®) – patient version. https://www.cancer.gov/types/bone/patient/osteosarcoma-treatment-pdq
American Cancer Society (2018). Osteosarcoma. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/osteosarcoma.html
American Cancer Society (2016). Ewing family of tumors. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/ewing-tumor.html
American Cancer Society (2017). Gastrointestinal stromal tumour (GIST). https://www.cancer.org/cancer/gastrointestinal-stromal-tumor.html