Risk factors

A risk factor is anything that increases a person’s chance of getting a certain condition or disease. Researchers know about some risk factors that increase the chance of developing cancer. However, for most children with cancer, the cause is unknown.

What we do know is that if a child develops cancer, it’s not because of something they, or their parents did to cause it. No one is to blame if a child develops cancer.

Even if your child has a risk factor, it doesn’t mean they will develop cancer. Many children with a risk factor will never develop cancer, most children with cancer have no known risk factors. Even if a child with a risk factor develops cancer, the risk factor may not have directly caused the cancer.

Researchers don’t completely understand what causes bone tumours. However, some things are linked to a higher chance of getting bone tumours.


Genetic conditions

Some bone conditions can increase your child’s chance of getting osteosarcoma, including:

  • Paget disease
  • hereditary multiple osteochondromas.

Genetic conditions that increase the likelihood of getting cancer can also increase your child’s risk of getting osteosarcoma. These include:

  • hereditary retinoblastoma
  • Diamond–Blackfan anaemia
  • Li–Fraumeni syndrome
  • Rothmund–Thomson syndrome
  • Bloom syndrome
  • Werner syndrome.

If your child has one of these genetic conditions, they will need specific care to monitor for the development of cancer. Your health care team will talk to you about which ongoing tests your child will need.

Childhood cancers with links to genetic conditions may also affect the risk for other family members. You can ask your child’s treatment team if you or your family should get genetic counselling.

To learn more about genetic conditions, see the children’s cancer glossary or the Centre for Genetics Education.

Exposure to radiation

Children who have had radiation therapy in the past may have a higher chance of getting osteosarcoma.