Overview

Bone cancer can begin in any bone in the body, but it most commonly affects the pelvis or the long bones in the arms and legs. Bone cancer is rare, making up less than 1 percent of all cancers. In fact, noncancerous bone tumors are much more common than cancerous ones.

The term "bone cancer" doesn't include cancers that begin elsewhere in the body and spread (metastasize) to the bone. Instead, those cancers are named for where they began, such as breast cancer that has metastasized to the bone.

Some types of bone cancer occur primarily in children, while others affect mostly adults. Surgical removal is the most common treatment, but chemotherapy and radiation therapy also may be utilized. The decision to use surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy is based on the type of bone cancer being treated.

Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of bone cancer include:

  • Bone pain
  • Swelling and tenderness near the affected area
  • Weakened bone, leading to fracture
  • Fatigue
  • Unintended weight loss

Causes

The cause of most bone cancers is unknown. A small number of bone cancers have been linked to hereditary factors, while others are related to previous radiation exposure.

Risk factors

It's not clear what causes bone cancer, but doctors have found certain factors are associated with an increased risk, including:

  • Inherited genetic syndromes. Certain rare genetic syndromes passed through families increase the risk of bone cancer, including Li-Fraumeni syndrome and hereditary retinoblastoma.
  • Paget's disease of bone. Most commonly occurring in older adults, Paget's disease of bone can increase the risk of bone cancer developing later.
  • Radiation therapy for cancer. Exposure to large doses of radiation, such as those given during radiation therapy for cancer, increases the risk of bone cancer in the future.

Bone cancer care at Mayo Clinic

June 28, 2016
References
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