What Causes Sarcoma?

Physician thinking about causes of sarcoma

Medical researchers are still working to conclusively determine what causes sarcoma. While scientists have confirmed that certain factors can increase a person’s risk of developing a sarcoma, the role that these risk factors play is still under investigation. At Moffitt Cancer Center, we are looking to discover why some people develop sarcomas while others do not, especially when both groups of people share the same established risk factors.

With regard to what potentially causes sarcoma, researchers know that sarcomas – like many other cancers – develop as a result of DNA mutations. These mutations can:

  • Be passed down from parent to child
  • Be acquired during a person’s lifetime
  • Develop in the cells of virtually any soft tissue in the body (the type of sarcoma with which a patient is diagnosed depends on the type of cells in which these genetic mutations occur)

These DNA mutations prevent the body’s oncogenes (genes that promote normal cell division) and/or tumor suppressor genes (genes that cause cells to die when they reach the end of their normal life cycle) from properly doing their jobs. If the genes that regulate cell division and death do not function properly, unregulated cells can accumulate into tumors. Cancerous cells can continue to spread into the nearby tissues and lymph nodes.

What causes sarcoma may vary from subtype to subtype. For instance, one study found that a mutation in the MYOD1 gene might give immature muscle cells the ability to divide uncontrollably instead of maturing into normal adult cells; however, this mutation was only present in tissue samples from embryonal rhabdomyosarcomas, and not in tissue samples from other types of sarcoma.

Moffitt’s oncologists can explain what potentially causes sarcoma in greater detail, and help you determine your own risk for developing cancer. We do not require patients to obtain referrals to make an appointment; call 1-888-663-3488 or submit a new patient registration form online.