Risk factors

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A risk factor is anything that increases a person’s chance of developing a certain condition or disease, such as cancer. In adults, lifestyle and environmental factors (such as smoking or exposure to certain chemicals) can be significant risk factors for developing certain types of cancer. In children, very few risk factors have been identified that increase the chance of developing cancer. For most children with cancer, the underlying cause is unknown.

Even if your child has a risk factor, it does not mean they will develop cancer. Many children with a risk factor will never develop cancer, while others with cancer may have had no known risk factors. Even if a child with a risk factor develops cancer, it is usually hard to know how much that risk factor contributed to the development of their disease.

The causes of soft tissue sarcomas are not well understood, but factors associated with a higher chance of developing soft tissue sarcomas include the following.

Genetic conditions

Certain genetic disorders are associated with a higher chance of developing 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 is diagnosed with one of these genetic conditions, they will need specific follow-up. The health care team will advise which ongoing tests your child will need.

Cancers in children that are linked to genetic conditions may also affect the risk for other family members. Speak to your child's treatment team to see whether genetic counselling is recommended for you or your family.

For more information about genetic conditions, see the children's cancer glossary or the Centre for Genetics Education.

Exposure to radiation

If your child has had treatment with radiation therapy in the past, they may have a higher chance of developing soft tissue sarcoma.

Certain virus infections

Children who have HIV and Epstein–Barr virus infections at the same time have a higher chance of developing soft tissue sarcomas.

published: Sunday, 23 August, 2015