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While it’s impossible to predict whether you will develop sarcoma during your lifetime, there are certain traits and exposures that can increase the likelihood of this happening. These are referred to as risk factors. Some sarcoma risk factors are inherited – passed down from parent to child – while others are acquired over time.

Genetic risk factors for sarcoma

The most common sarcoma risk factors are genetic. There are quite a few genetic disorders that can make you more likely to develop a soft tissue sarcoma as an adult. These include:

  • Retinoblastoma
  • Familial adenomatous polyposis
  • Werner syndrome
  • Li-Fraumeni syndrome
  • Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1)
  • Basal cell nevus syndrome
  • Hereditary osteochondroma
  • Paget’s disease of the bone

Non-genetic risk factors for sarcoma

There are other conditions that can indirectly increase your risk of sarcoma depending on the ways in which they are treated. Cervical cancer, breast cancer and lymphoma, for instance, are often treated with high-dose radiation therapy. Frequent, prolonged exposure to ionizing radiation can increase your likelihood of developing sarcoma.

You may also have an increased risk of developing sarcoma if you have been routinely exposed to vinyl chloride, arsenic or dioxide. People who are exposed to these chemicals have slightly higher sarcoma incidence rates than the general population.

If you’re worried that you might be at risk for sarcoma, you should know that having one (or even several) of these risk factors does not necessarily mean that you’ll develop cancer. The best thing you can do is pay close attention to your health and talk with a physician about anything out of the ordinary. Visible lumps, tender spots underneath your skin, fatigue and abdominal pain are all potential signs of sarcoma that you can watch for and immediately have assessed should they occur.

For more information about the risk factors for sarcoma, you can call 1-888-663-3488 or submit a new patient registration form online to request an appointment with an oncologist in Moffitt Cancer Center’s designated Sarcoma Program. A physician’s referral is not necessary to do so.