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Doctor describing osteosarcoma causes to patient

Osteosarcoma is a rare form of bone cancer that usually originates in the long bones of the arms and legs, often during periods of rapid growth and development. Although the condition can occur at any age, it predominantly affects adolescents and young adults.

Characterized by an overproduction of abnormal bone-forming cells, osteosarcoma often develops in the upper leg bone (femur) near the knee or the upper arm bone (humerus) near the shoulder. Common symptoms include persistent and unexplained bone pain, tenderness and swelling.

Osteosarcoma causes

Scientists believe osteosarcoma most likely results from a complex interplay of genetic and environmental factors. However, the precise cause is unknown.

Osteosarcoma risk factors

While the exact cause of uncontrolled cell growth that leads to osteosarcoma remains unclear, researchers have established that the condition disproportionately affects adolescents and young adults, which suggests a possible correlation with the rapid bone growth that occurs during puberty. The condition tends to affect females at a younger age than males, possibly because females often experience “grow spurts” earlier than males.

Osteosarcoma risk factors that cannot be controlled

In addition to age, certain medical conditions and treatments can increase the risk of osteosarcoma. These include:

  • Paget’s disease of bone
  • Fibrous dysplasia
  • Bloom syndrome
  • Hereditary retinoblastoma
  • Li-Fraumeni syndrome
  • Rothmund-Thomson syndrome II
  • Werner syndrome
  • Prior radiation therapy
  • Certain chemotherapy drugs

Osteosarcoma risk factors that can be controlled

While most osteosarcoma risk factors, such as age, prior cancer treatments and genetic predispositions, cannot be controlled, there are ways to potentially reduce the risk. For instance, minimizing any exposure to ionizing radiation, whether manmade or natural, may help lower the risk. Human-made sources of ionizing radiation include medical procedures such as X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans and radiation therapy for cancer treatment. Occupational exposures can occur in industries that deal with radioactive materials, such as manufacturing, construction and defense.

Additionally, adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise and a balanced diet can contribute to overall well-being, although its direct impact on osteosarcoma risk reduction is not fully established. Awareness of family medical history and regular medical check-ups can also aid in ensuring an early diagnosis and treatment.

Osteosarcoma prevention

As of now, no known preventive measures can completely eliminate the risk of osteosarcoma. Given the complex and multifactorial nature of the cancer, prevention strategies primarily focus on managing the risk factors that can be controlled.

Benefit from world-class care at Moffitt Cancer Center

If you would like to learn more about osteosarcoma causes, you can request an appointment with a specialist in Moffitt’s renowned Sarcoma Program by calling 1-888-663-3488  or submitting a new patient registration form online. We can help you explore your unique risk profile, recommend genetic testing (if appropriate) and suggest an individualized prevention strategy. You do not need a referral to consult with an expert at Moffitt.