©2019 by Northwest Sarcoma Foundation.

WHAT CAUSES BONE CANCER?

People often think that a knock or injury to a bone can cause a cancer. There is very little evidence for this. It is more likely that an injury causes swelling, which shows up a cancer that is already there. It may also be true that a bone affected by cancer is weakened and so more likely to become damaged in an accident.

No one knows exactly what causes cancer of the bone, but several risk factors have been identified. These include:

  • radiation

  • other bone diseases

  • and genetic conditions

Radiation

Exposure to radiation can cause bone cancer. If you have had radiotherapy to a bone before, you are at an increased risk of getting a primary bone cancer. This is a very small risk for most people. The greatest risk is for those treated at a young age with high doses of radiotherapy. Only 1 person in several thousand treated with radiotherapy will get a bone cancer.

Other bone diseases

Two other bone diseases that are not cancer are related to bone cancer risk. If you have had Paget's disease of the bone you have a slightly increased risk of getting a primary bone cancer. If you have a type of benign (non-cancerous) bone tumor called a chondroma or osteochondroma, you have an increased risk of getting a type of bone cancer called chondrosarcoma. Another rare condition called Ollier's disease (also called enchondromatosis) can also increase the risk of developing a chondrosarcoma.

Genetic conditions

If you have a condition called Li-Fraumeni syndrome, you have an increased risk of several cancers, including bone cancer. Li-Fraumeni syndrome runs in families. It is caused by an inherited gene defect.

There is a type of eye cancer that affects children called hereditary retinoblastoma. This is also caused by faulty genes. Children with this gene defect also have an increased risk of getting osteosarcoma.

Another rare genetic condition called HME (hereditary multiple exosteses) can increase the risk of developing a chondrosarcoma later in life.