Your risk of developing cancer depends on many things including age, genetics, lifestyle and environmental factors.
We don’t know what causes most bone cancers. But there are some factors that may increase your risk of developing it.
Having any of these risk factors does not mean that you will definitely develop cancer.
Like most cancers, the risk of bone cancer increases with age. But for some types of bone cancer, younger people have a higher risk.
Osteosarcoma is more common in adolescents (10 to 19 years). It seems to be linked to the growth of the bones during puberty.
Ewing sarcoma usually develops in children (0 to 14 years) and adolescents. But it can occur in adults.
Chondrosarcomas and spindle cell sarcomas tend to occur mostly in adults between the ages of 30 to 60.
Chordomas are more common in adults over 50 years of age.
The risk of bone cancer is linked to previous cancer treatment with radiotherapy, particularly during childhood. Treatment with chemotherapy drugs called alkylating agents is also linked with osteosarcoma.
Other bone diseases
Some types of bone disease can increase the risk of bone cancer:
Enchondroma or osteochondroma
If you have a type of non cancerous (benign) bone tumour called an enchondroma or osteochondroma, you have an increased risk of getting a type of bone cancer called chondrosarcoma. This is very rare.
People with a rare condition called Ollier's disease (also called enchondromatosis) develop many non cancerous (benign) tumours in their bones. These tumours can become cancerous, and can turn into a chondrosarcoma.
People with Paget disease have an increased risk of getting osteosarcoma. Paget disease is a condition where new bone replaces old bones at a faster than normal rate.
Some genetic factors are linked to bone cancer:
A condition called Li-Fraumeni syndrome runs in families. It is caused by a gene fault inherited from your parents. If you have Li-Fraumeni syndrome, you have an increased risk of several cancers, including osteosarcoma.
There is a type of eye cancer also caused by faulty genes. It is called hereditary retinoblastoma. Children with this gene fault also have an increased risk of osteosarcoma.
Syndromes such as Werner syndrome, Rothmund–Thomson syndrome and Bloom syndrome are also risk factors for osteosarcoma.
Injuries and knocks
People often think that a knock or injury to a bone can cause bone cancer. But research studies do not support this.
It's more likely that an injury causes swelling, which when it's investigated, shows up a cancer that is already there. Or a bone affected by cancer may be weakened and so is more likely to become broken (fractured) in an accident. Doctors may then spot the tumour when they investigate your fracture.
Other possible causes
Stories about potential causes are often in the media and it isn’t always clear which ideas are supported by evidence. There might be things you have heard of that we haven’t included here. This is because either there is no evidence about them or it is less clear.