Bone cancer risk factors

This page was reviewed under our medical and editorial policy by

Maurie Markman, MD, President, Medicine & Science at CTCA.

This page was updated on June 8, 2022.

Risk factors for bone cancer may vary.

The exact causes of bone cancer are unknown, but certain factors may increase a person's risk of developing bone cancer. Some examples are genetic disorders and previous treatments for other conditions.

Genetic disorders

Several hereditary syndromes caused by mutations in specific genes are considered risk factors for bone cancer, including:

  • Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Rothmund-Thompson syndrome and mutation of the retinoblastoma gene (associated with a rare eye cancer) have 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 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.

Learn more about genetic counseling and genetic testing

Other conditions

Paget's disease: This non-cancerous condition causes the bones to become thick and brittle, and to break easily. Paget’s disease has been associated with 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.

Previous treatment

Radiation: Exposing bones to high doses of radiation, such as the type of radiation therapy used in cancer treatments, may 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.

Learn more about orthopedic oncology

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