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What are the causes and risk factors?

The causes of most bone cancers are unknown, but factors that increase the risk include:

Previous radiation exposure including radiation therapy (radiotherapy) – Radiation therapy to treat cancer increases the risk of developing bone cancer. The risk is higher when high doses of radiation therapy have been given in childhood. Most people who have radiation therapy will not develop bone cancer.

Chemotherapy for another cancer – Some drugs may increase the risk of osteosarcoma.

Other bone conditions – Some people who have Paget disease of the bone, or other benign bone conditions, are at higher risk.

Genetic factors – Some inherited conditions, such as Li-Fraumeni syndrome, increase the risk of bone cancer. People with a strong family history of certain types of cancer are also at risk. Ask for a referral to a family cancer clinic for more information. Some people develop bone cancer because of gene changes that happen during their lifetime, rather than inheriting a faulty gene.

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This information is reviewed by

This information was last reviewed January 2023 by the following expert content reviewers: Prof Peter Choong AO, Orthopaedic Surgeon, and Sir Hugh Devine Professor, St Vincent’s Hospital, and Head of Department of Surgery, The University of Melbourne, VIC; Catherine Chapman, Adolescent and Young Adult and Sarcoma Cancer Specialist Nurse, Division of Cancer and Ambulatory Support, Canberra Hospital, ACT; A/Prof Paul Craft AM, Medical Oncologist, Canberra Hospital and Australian National University, ACT; Belinda Fowlie, Bone Tumour Nurse Practitioner Candidate, SA Bone and Soft Tissue Tumour Unit, Flinders Medical Centre, SA; Prof Angela Hong, Radiation Oncologist, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, and Clinical Professor, The University of Sydney, NSW; Vicki Moss, Nurse Practitioner, SA Bone and Soft Tissue Tumour Unit, Flinders Medical Centre, SA; A/Prof and Dr Marianne Phillips, Paediatric and Adolescent Oncologist and Palliative Care Physician, Perth Children’s Hospital, WA; Chris Sibthorpe, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland; Stephanie Webster, Consumer.