Risk Factors for Uterine Sarcoma

A risk factor is anything that increases your chance of getting a disease such as cancer. Different cancers have different risk factors. Some risk factors, like smoking, can be changed; others, like a person’s age or family history, can’t.

Having a risk factor, or even several, does not mean that you will get the disease. And many people who get the disease may have few or no known risk factors.

Although this cancer is very rare, a few risk factors are known to increase a woman's risk of developing a uterine sarcoma.

Pelvic radiation therapy

Radiation to the pelvis can increase your risk for developing uterine sarcoma. This has been seen sometimes after someone has had radiation to treat cervical cancer or rectal cancer. These cancers usually are diagnosed 5 to 25 years after the radiation treatment.

Congenital (heritable) retinoblastoma

Women who have had a type of eye cancer called congenital (heritable) retinoblastoma as a child have an increased risk of soft tissue sarcomas, including uterine sarcomas.

Family history of kidney cancer 

A rare family cancer syndrome called hereditary leiomyomatosis and renal cell cancer (HLRCC) has been linked to an increased risk of uterine sarcomas. 

Tamoxifen

 Although the risk is small, women taking tamoxifen to prevent or treat breast cancer have an increased risk of developing uterine sarcoma. These sarcomas often show up 2 to 5 years after starting tamoxifen. If you are taking tamoxifen, doctors recommend getting regular pelvic exams and more testing if you are having abnormal bleeding from the uterus.  

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Boggess JF, Kilgore JE, and Tran AQ. Ch. 85 – Uterine Cancer. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Doroshow JH, Kastan MB, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa. Elsevier; 2020.

Francis JH, Kleinerman RA, Seddon JM, Abramson DH. Increased risk of secondary uterine leiomyosarcoma in hereditary retinoblastoma. Gynecol Oncol. 2012 Feb;124(2):254-9. Epub 2011 Oct 23.

Memarzadeh S and Berek JS. Uterine sarcoma: Classification, epidemiology, clinical manifestations, and diagnosis. In: Chakrabarti A, ed. UpToDate. Waltham, Mass.: UpToDate, 2021. https://www.uptodate.com. Accessed June 2, 2022.

National Cancer Institute. Uterine Sarcoma Treatment (PDQ®)–Health Professional Version. Feb 10, 2022. Accessed at https://www.cancer.gov/types/uterine/hp/uterine-sarcoma-treatment-pdq
on June 2, 2022.

Last Revised: September 20, 2022

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