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Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Soft tissue sarcoma risk factors

Although the exact causes of soft tissue sarcoma are unknown, certain factors that may increase an individual's soft tissue sarcoma risks have been identified. These risk factors include age, chemical exposure and hereditary conditions.

cancer risks

Overview of soft tissue sarcoma risk factors

Some common risk factors for soft tissue sarcoma include:


  • Age: While soft tissue sarcoma can occur in people of any age, it is more commonly found in adults over the age of 50.


Hereditary conditions: Some rare, inherited genetic conditions are considered risk factors for soft tissue sarcoma. They include:

  • Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
  • Retinoblastoma
  • Neurofibromatosis type 1 (von Recklinghausen disease or NF1)
  • Li-Fraumeni syndrome


  • Chemical exposure: Exposure to vinyl chloride and dioxin can increase the risk of developing soft tissue sarcomas. Vinyl chloride is used to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes, car upholstery, plastic kitchenware and wire coatings. Dioxins are a group of chemicals that form during the burning of household and industrial waste.


  • Radiation therapy: On rare occasions, external radiation therapy to treat any form of cancer can lead to the development of soft tissue sarcoma later in life in the treated area. This can occur anywhere from five to 30 years after initial treatment.


  • Weakened immune system: People with HIV sometimes develop Kaposi sarcoma, a type of soft tissue sarcoma that develops from the cells that line blood vessels or lymph vessels. This rare type of sarcoma is treated differently than other, more common types of soft tissue sarcoma.
Last Revised: 10/12/2015

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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