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The exact cause of most osteosarcomas is not known. But 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. Different cancers have different risk factors.

So far, lifestyle-related factors (like bad diets, lack of exercise, or obesity) have not been linked to osteosarcoma in children or in adults.

Risk factors for osteosarcoma

Age: Risk is highest in teens and young adults, but it is also higher in people over 60.

Height: Children with osteosarcoma are usually tall for their age.

Gender: Osteosarcoma is more common in males than in females.

Race/ethnicity: Osteosarcoma is slightly more common in African Americans than in whites.

Radiation to bones: Young people who were treated with radiation for an earlier cancer have a higher risk of osteosarcoma in the same area later.

Certain bone diseases: People with certain non-cancer bone diseases have an increased risk of getting osteosarcoma:

  • Paget disease of bone
  • Multiple hereditary osteochondromas

Certain cancer syndromes: People with certain rare, inherited cancer syndromes have an increased risk of getting osteosarcoma:

  • Li-Fraumeni syndrome
  • Hereditary retinoblastoma (a rare childhood eye cancer)
  • Rothmund-Thompson syndrome
  • Bloom syndrome
  • Werner syndrome
  • Diamond-Blackfan anemia

It is important to keep in mind that for most people with osteosarcoma, the cause of their cancer is not clear.


Last Medical Review: 06/13/2014
Last Revised: 01/27/2016