Bone, Joint and Muscle Cancer: Risk Factors


Soft tissue and bone cancers have no clearly-defined cause. However, researchers have identified several factors that increase the likelihood of developing these tumors.

Soft Tissue Cancers


If you have received external radiation therapy for cancers of the retina, breast, cervix, ovary, testes or lymphatic system, you have a much higher chance of developing a soft tissue cancer than the general population. Studies indicate that the risk appears to be related to the dose of radiation, reflecting higher risk with higher doses.

Exposure to Chemicals

People who work in an environment where they are exposed to certain chemicals are more likely to develop soft tissue cancer. Professions with the greatest risk are those that require the person to work with vinyl chloride, arsenic and herbicides.


Studies have shown that certain inherited diseases and genetic changes may lead to the development of soft tissue tumors. Those with increased risk included people with Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Recklinghausen disease, hereditary retinoblastoma and renal cell cancer syndrome.


Kaposi sarcoma is a soft tissue cancer that has been seen to develop in some people with HIV (the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS). The primary cause of Kaposi sarcoma is infection with Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV), or human herpesvirus 8. However, people infected with KSHV, but not HIV, rarely develop Kaposi sarcoma.

Bone Cancers

Cancer Therapies

Those who have received high-dose external radiation therapy and/or treatment with anticancer drugs are at a higher risk for developing bone cancer.


A small number of bone cancers are due to heredity. In particular, children with hereditary retinoblastoma (an uncommon cancer of the eye) are at a higher risk for developing osteosarcoma (a cancer that arises from osteoid tissue in the bone).