Spinal cancer causes and risk factors

This page was reviewed under our medical and editorial policy by

Maurie Markman, MD, President, Medicine & Science

This page was updated on June 7, 2022.

Spinal cancer is a rare disease, affecting approximately one in every 180 women and one in every 140 men. The lifetime risk for developing spinal cancer is below 1 percent.

What causes spinal cancer?

The causes of spinal tumors are still largely unknown. Although some genetic conditions may contribute to the development of spinal cancer, the risk factors are much less defined for spinal cancer than for other cancers.

Spinal cancer risk factors

Known risk factors include those listed below.

Prior history of cancer: Cancers that may be more likely to spread to the spine include those that originate in the breast, lung and prostate, as well as multiple myeloma.

Compromised immune system: Some people whose immune systems are compromised develop spinal cord lymphomas.

Hereditary disorders: Von Hippel-Lindau disease and Neurofibromatosis (NF2) are inherited conditions that are sometimes associated with tumors in the spinal cord.

Exposures: Exposure to radiation therapy or industrial chemicals may increase the likelihood of developing spinal cancer.

Next topic: What are the symptoms of spinal cancer?

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