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A very small number of bone cancers appear to be caused by changes (mutations) in certain genes. But the exact cause of most bone cancers is not known. We do know that certain risk factors are linked to this disease. A risk factor is something that affects a person’s chance of getting a disease. Some risk factors, like smoking, can be controlled. Others, like a person’s age or race, can’t be changed. But having a risk factor, or even several, does not mean that you will get cancer.

Most people with bone cancer do not have any known risk factors. Some risk factors for bone cancer are having had certain other diseases or medical treatments.

Diseases and syndromes

The following conditions can increase the risk of some types of bone cancer. If you have any of these, you should ask your doctor for more information.

Genetic syndromes

These syndromes are linked to having an abnormal gene

  • Li-Fraumeni syndrome
  • Rothmund-Thomson syndrome
  • The inherited form of retinoblastoma (a rare eye cancer of children)
  • Multiple exostoses syndrome, also called multiple osteochondromas (an inherited condition that causes many bumps on a person’s bones)
  • Tuberous sclerosis

Other diseases

  • Paget disease
  • Multiple enchondromatosis (many benign cartilage tumors)

Other risk factors


People who have been treated with ionizing radiation for an earlier cancer have a higher risk of getting bone cancer later. Being treated at a younger age or being treated with high doses of radiation increases the risk of bone cancer.

Non-ionizing radiation, such as microwaves, electromagnetic fields from power lines, cell phones, and household appliances, does not increase bone cancer risk.

Stem cell transplant

Osteosarcoma has been reported in a few people who have had bone marrow (stem cell) transplantation.

Last Medical Review: 12/05/2012
Last Revised: 01/24/2013