Causes and prevention of soft tissue sarcoma

The cause of soft tissue sarcomas is mostly unknown. But there are certain risk factors, such as:

  • Inherited conditions: If you have a rare inherited genetic disease such as neurofibromatosis, Gardner syndrome, Li-Fraumeni syndrome and retinoblastoma, you have a higher risk. If any member of your family has one of these conditions, their doctor should check them regularly for any signs of sarcoma.
  • Viruses: Kaposi’s sarcoma occurs in people with faulty immune systems and is caused by a virus known as human herpes virus 8 (HHV-8).
  • Previous radiotherapy: If you have had previous radiotherapy, you might have a higher risk. Very rarely, a sarcoma might develop 5–10 years after treatment.
  • Chemicals: If you are exposed to certain chemicals, you might develop a sarcoma. These chemicals include vinyl chloride, some weedkillers (herbicides) and dioxins. Dioxins are a waste product in the making of chemicals and fertilizers.

If you feel you might be at risk, first talk to your family doctor (GP) about your concerns. He or she might refer you to a hospital specialist.

Call our National Cancer Helpline

Freephone 1800 200 700 to talk to a specialist cancer nurse
It's open Monday-Thursday from 9am to 7pm and Friday from 9am to 5pm