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. But, 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. And others with cancer may have had no known risk factors. Even if a child with a risk factor develops cancer, the risk factor may not have had much to do with it.

Researchers don’t completely understand what causes soft tissue sarcomas. But there are some things that are linked to a higher chance of getting them.


Genetic conditions

Research links certain genetic conditions with a higher chance of getting soft tissue sarcomas. These include:

  • Beckwith–Weideman syndrome
  • Costello syndrome
  • Li–Fraumeni syndrome
  • Neurofibromatosis type 1
  • Noonan syndrome
  • Werner syndrome
  • Familial adenomatous polyposis
  • Changes in the Rb (retinoblastoma) gene.

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

Childhood cancers that have 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

High doses of radiation will increase a child’s risk of getting soft tissue sarcoma.

Certain virus infections

Children with HIV and Epstein–Barr Virus infections at the same time have a higher chance of getting soft tissue sarcomas.