Soft tissue sarcoma statistics


New cases of soft tissue sarcoma, 2010, UK


Survive soft tissue sarcoma for 10 or more years, 2009-2013, England



Preventable cases of soft tissue sarcoma, UK

  • Around 3,300 people were diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma in 2010 in the UK, that’s around 9 people every day.
  • In the UK in 2010, around 1,700 males and around 1,600 females were diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma.
  • The most common subtypes of soft tissue sarcoma in the UK in 2008-2010 were leiomyosarcoma (18%), fibroblastic sarcoma (14%) and liposarcoma (13%). One-fifth (20%) of soft tissue sarcoma cases were not recorded as a specific subtype (sarcoma NOS).
  • Around 4 in 10 (43%) soft tissue sarcoma cases are diagnosed in people over 65 years old.
  • Though all of the main soft tissue sarcoma subtypes are more common in older people than younger people, the age profile varies between subtypes. Rhabdomyosarcoma in particular affects young children.
  • Soft tissue sarcoma incidence rates have increased overall in the UK since the mid-1990s, by 18% for males and 14% for females between 1996-1998 and 2008-2010. This is probably linked with improvements to diagnosis and data recording.
  • Incidence rates have remained stable for most of the main soft tissue sarcoma subtypes in the UK since the mid-1990s. Rates of liposarcoma, fibroblastic sarcoma, rare soft tissue sarcoma variants, and sarcoma NOS have increased between 1996-1998 and 2008-2010, while rates of leiomyosarcoma have decreased. Changes in the definition of some subtypes may partly explain the trends.
  • Most soft tissue sarcomas occur in the limbs.

See more in-depth soft tissue sarcoma incidence statistics

  • Almost half (45%) of people diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma in the UK survive their disease for ten years or more (1996-2000).
  • More than half (53%) of people diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma in the UK survive their disease for five years or more (2001-2005).
  • Three-quarters (75%) of people diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma in the UK survive their disease for one year or more (2005-2009).
  • Soft tissue sarcoma 10-year survival in the UK is similar in men and women (1996-2000).
  • Soft tissue sarcoma five-year survival in the UK in males is highest for those diagnosed at 35-39 years old and in females is highest for those diagnosed at 25-29 years old (2001-2005).
  • 7 in 10 people in the UK diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma aged 35-39 survive their disease for five years or more, compared with 3 in 10 people diagnosed aged 85+ (2001-2005).
  • A person’s risk of developing cancer depends on many factors, including age, genetics, and exposure to risk factors (including some potentially avoidable lifestyle factors).
  • 2% of soft tissue sarcoma cases each year in the UK are linked to major lifestyle and other risk factors.
  • Evidence on soft tissue sarcoma risk factors is limited, mainly because this cancer is relatively rare and comprises many subtypes.
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and Kaposi sarcoma herpes virus cause Kaposi sarcoma, a type of soft tissue sarcoma.
  • An estimated 2% of soft tissue sarcoma cases in the UK are linked to certain occupational exposures.
  • Some types of ionising radiation and certain medical conditions may relate to higher soft tissue sarcoma risk, but evidence is unclear.

See more in-depth soft tissue sarcoma risk factors

  • ‘Two-week wait’ standards are met by all countries, ‘31-day wait’ is met by all but Northern Ireland and Wales, and ’62 day wait’ is not met by any country for sarcoma.

See more in-depth soft tissue sarcoma diagnosis and treatment statistics

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The latest statistics available for soft tissue sarcoma in the UK are; incidence 2010 and survival 1996-2009. Mortality data are not available for soft tissue sarcoma.

The ICD coding system Open a glossary item is inadequate for classifying soft tissue sarcoma (STS) because it classifies tumours by their location in the body, rather than their morphology (cell type) - and STS are defined by their morphology as well as by their location in the body. The ICD-10 codes for Kaposi sarcoma (C46) and connective tissue (C47 and C49) capture approximately 50% of STS, with the remainder of STS being coded to the body part in which they occur. In standard registration ICD-10 coding is used, but the International Classification of Diseases for Oncology (ICD-O) is more appropriate for coding STS, as it classifies by tumour morphology as well as location in the body.The ICD code used for the preventable cancers figure is ICD-10 C49.

The data on these pages are provided by the Public Health England West Midlands Knowledge and Intelligence Team (WM KIT), which is the National Cancer Intelligence Network lead intelligence team in England for bone and soft tissue sarcoma. The WM KIT identifies soft tissue sarcoma according to their ICD-10 and ICD-O morphology codes using national cancer datasets for England (National Cancer Data Repository), Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The data on these pages include all primary tumours with a sarcoma ICD-O morphology code (these codes are listed in the chart and table downloads) occurring at all body sites excluding the bones (bone sarcoma are coded to ICD-10 C40 and C41, and are a different tumour group to STS) and the brain and other parts of the central nervous system (ICD-10 C70-C72, sarcoma arising in the brain are routinely excluded from STS statistics because of possible under/over-counting: some Ewing sarcoma in the brain are coded as the non-STS tumours peripheral neuroectodermal tumours (pNETs)).

Survival statistics give an overall picture of survival and (unless otherwise stated) include all adults (15-99) diagnosed, at all ages, stages Open a glossary item and co-morbidities Open a glossary item. The survival time experienced by an individual patient may be much higher or lower, depending on specific patient and tumour characteristics.

Overall, the evidence on STS risk factors is limited, mainly because of the relative rarity and diversity of this group of cancers. Studies which define STS according to anatomical location alone are likely to underestimate the number of STS cases/deaths, and may be confounded by grouping together STS morphological subtypes with differing aetiologies. Where available, evidence from studies which define STS by tumour morphology are cited; if studies define by ICD-9 or ICD-10 anatomical site only this is noted.

Meta-analyses Open a glossary item and systematic reviews Open a glossary item are cited where available, as they provide the best overview of all available research and most take study quality into account. Individual case-control and cohort studies are reported where such aggregated data are lacking.

Cancer waiting times statistics are for patients who entered the health care system within financial year 2014-15. Soft tissue sarcoma cancer is part of the group 'Sarcoma' for cancer waiting times data. Codes vary per country but broadly include: bone and articular cartilage, Kaposi sarcoma, retroperitoneum and peritoneum, other connective and soft tissue, secondary cancers of retroperitoneum and peritoneum, secondary cancers of bone and bone marrow.


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Cancer Research UK would like to thank the following people for their kind help and expert advice on this content: Mr Matthew Francis, Dr Nicola Dennis, and Dr Gill Lawrence, Public Health England Knowledge and Intelligence Team (West Midlands); Lindsey Bennister and Claire Kelleher at Sarcoma UK. However, the contents are entirely the responsibility of Cancer Research UK. We would also like to acknowledge the essential work of the National Cancer Registration Service (part of Public Health England) and the Office for National Statistics in England, and the cancer registries in the United Kingdom and Ireland Association of Cancer Registries. Population-based cancer data has been collected in most regions of the UK since the early 1960s, and without this cancer registration system there would be no incidence or survival statistics.

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