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Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Bone cancer risk factors

Although the exact causes of bone cancer are unknown, certain factors that may increase a person's risk of developing bone cancer have been identified. Some examples are genetic disorders and previous treatments for other conditions.

cancer risks

Bone cancer risk factors


Genetic disorders: There are several hereditary syndromes caused by mutations in specific enes that are considered risk factors for bone cancer:

  • Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Rothmund-Thompson syndrome and mutation of the retinoblastoma gene (associated with a rare eye cancer) have all been associated with an increased risk in children of developing osteosarcoma.
  • Multiple exostoses syndrome (also known as multiple osteochondromas syndrome), an inherited condition associated with the formation of bumps of cartilage on the bones, has been associated with an increased risk of chondrosarcoma.
  • Some osteosarcomas and chordomas have been found to run in families, but the underlying genetic mutation has not been identified yet.


  • Paget's disease: This non-cancerous condition that causes the bones to become thick and brittle, and to break easily, is considered a bone cancer risk factor. This disease has been associated with the development of bone cancer in approximately 1 percent of individuals. (Note: Paget’s disease of the breast, a rare form of breast cancer, is medically unrelated to Paget’s disease of the bone.)
  • Multiple enchondromatosis: Patients with many benign cartilage tumors known as enchondromas are at increased risk for developing chondrosarcoma.


  • Radiation: Exposing bones to high doses of radiation, such as when radiation therapy is used to treat another form of cancer, can increase the risk of a primary bone cancer forming in those areas. This risk is higher in young adults. Radioactive minerals such as radium or strontium can build up in the bones, and may also cause primary bone cancers.
  • Bone marrow transplantation: Individuals who have undergone a bone marrow transplant for the treatment of another condition may be at an increased risk for developing osteosarcoma.
Last Revised: 10/09/2015

Understanding risk factors

Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer. Not having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will not get cancer. If you think you may be at risk, you should discuss it with your doctor.

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