Bone cancer is caused by a problem with the cells that make bone. More than 2,000 people are diagnosed in the United States each year with a bone tumor. Bone tumors occur most commonly in children and adolescents and are less common in older adults.
There are many different types of bone cancers. Bone cancer occurs when there is an abnormality in the cells that make bone. Bone tumors are found more frequently in children than adults. When an adult has a bone tumor it is usually from another tumor that has spread to the bone.
Osteosarcoma is the most common type of bone cancer. It primarily affects males and is an aggressive cancer. Ewing's Sarcoma is very aggressive and also occurs primarily in males 15 years of age and younger. Chondrosarcoma is also a common type of bone cancer than can be aggressive or slow growing and occurs most commonly in people over the age of 40. Other types of bone cancers include chordoma, fibrosarcoma, and malignant fibrous histiocytoma.
Cancer can begin in any type of bone tissue. Bones are made up of osteoid (hard or compact), cartilaginous (tough, flexible), and fibrous (threadlike) tissue, as well as elements of bone marrow (soft, spongy tissue in the center of most bones).
Common types of primary bone cancer include:
- Osteosarcoma, which arises from osteoid tissue in the bone. This tumor occurs most often in the knee and upper arm.
- Chondrosarcoma , which begins in cartilaginous tissue. Cartilage pads the ends of bones and lines the joints. Chondrosarcoma occurs most often in the pelvis(located between the hip bones), upper leg, and shoulder. Sometimes a chondrosarcoma contains cancerous bone cells. In that case, doctors classify the tumor as an osteosarcoma.
- The Ewing Sarcoma Family of Tumors (ESFTs), which usually occur in bone but may also arise in soft tissue (muscle, fat, fibrous tissue, blood vessels, or other supporting tissue). Scientists think that ESFTs arise from elements of primitive nerve tissue in the bone or soft tissue. ESFTs occur most commonly along the backbone and pelvis and in the legs and arms.
Other types of cancer that arise in soft tissue are called Soft tissue sarcomas. They are not bone cancer.