Soft Tissue Sarcoma Risks and Prevention

Risk factors affect the chance of getting soft tissue sarcomas. Having a risk factor, or even several, does not mean that someone will get cancer. If you feel you are at risk, you may benefit from consulting with a risk assessment specialist within one of Penn Medicine's cancer risk evaluation programs.

Soft Tissue Sarcoma Risk Factors

There are different kinds of risk factors. Most risk factors for soft tissue sarcomas, like age and family history, cannot be prevented.

Risk factors for developing soft tissue sarcomas include:

  • Genetics. Soft tissue sarcoma may develop in someone with an inherited disorder that puts them at greater risk. These inherited conditions include:
    • Li-Fraumeni Syndrome
    • Von Recklinghausen's Disease
    • Tuberous sclerosis
    • Familial adenomatous polyposis
    • Gorlin syndrome
  • Radiation. Previous exposure to radiation may increase the chance someone will get a secondary cancer.
  • Chemical exposure. Being exposed to chemicals such as thorotrast, vinyl chloride and arsenic. An unusual percentage of patients with a rare blood vessel tumor of the liver called angiosarcoma have been exposed to vinyl chloride in their work. This substance is used in the manufacture of certain plastics. Workers who are exposed to phenoxyacetic acid in herbicides and chlorophenols in wood preservatives may have an increased risk of developing soft tissue sarcomas.
  • Chronic lymphedema

Soft Tissue Sarcoma Prevention

While it is always good to maintain a healthy weight and to quit smoking or using tobacco, currently, there are no known lifestyle changes that can prevent soft tissue sarcoma.

Soft Tissue Sarcoma Risk Assessment Program

Recent studies have suggested that certain inherited diseases are associated with increased risk of developing a sarcoma.

Genetics is the science that looks at how traits (such as eye color) are passed down from parents to their children through genes. Genetic testing is a process in which the inherited genetic material, called DNA, is carefully tested for alterations. DNA is obtained from a simple blood test. Certain families may benefit from genetic testing.

If you are likely to have an inherited cancer syndrome, you should talk to your doctor about genetic testing. Our sarcoma risk assessment program provides education about the benefits, limitations, and potential drawbacks of genetic testing to help you make the decision that is right for you.