Diseases & Conditions
Sarcomas go by a variety of names, depending on the
tissue in which they originate. Locations of sarcomas and their names
These include osteosarcomas, which occur primarily in growing bone
tissue; chondrosarcomas, which occur in cartilage; and Ewing's
sarcomas, which arise primarily in immature tissue in bone marrow.
Osteosarcomas and Ewing's sarcomas occur most often in children,
adolescents and young adults, ages 10 to 25.
There are two types of muscles: skeletal and smooth. Skeletal
muscles move bones and are under your voluntary control. You can't
control smooth muscles, which line blood vessels and organs such as
the uterus and gastrointestinal tract.
Sarcomas that arise from muscles include rhabdomysarcomas, which
occur in skeletal muscles, most commonly in your arms and legs.
There are multiple subtypes of rhabdomyosarcoma, including embryonal
sarcomas, which tend to occur in the head, neck and genitourinary
tract of children ages 4 and younger, and alveolar sarcomas, which
occur in the arms, legs, head and neck of children. Leiomyosarcomas
occur in the smooth muscles, most commonly in the uterus,
gastrointestinal tract or lining of blood vessels.
These include angiosarcomas, which most commonly occur in the blood
vessels of your arms, legs, head and trunk; infantile
hemangiopericytomas, which generally occur in the blood vessels of
the arms, legs, trunk, head and neck of children ages 4 and younger;
and Kaposi's sarcoma, a tumor of the blood vessel walls, which
occurs in people with immune deficiencies such as HIV/AIDS.
Called lymphangiosarcomas, this type occurs in the lymph vessels,
most commonly in your arms or legs.
A type called synovial sarcomas occurs in proximity to joints and in
tendon sheaths of your legs.
Neurofibrosarcomas occur in the peripheral nerves of your arms, legs
Liposarcomas occur in the fatty tissues, often in your arms, legs
These include fibrosarcomas, which occur in your arms, legs and
trunk; malignant fibrous hystiocytomas, which occur in your legs;
and dermatofibrosarcomas, which occur in your trunk.
These tissues provide a protective lining for certain organs, such
as your lungs, heart and intestines. Malignant tumors that arise
from these tissues are called mesotheliomas and most commonly occur
in your lungs.
In general, no one knows for sure what causes most bone
or soft tissue sarcomas. Known causes include asbestos for most cases of
mesothelioma, and viruses for Kaposi's sarcoma in people with defective
immune systems. Adults with Paget's disease of bone, which involves
abnormal development of new bone cells, may be at increased risk of
osteosarcoma. In a few cases, sarcomas may be hereditary, such as in Li-Fraumeni
syndrome or in families with neurofibromatosis. Li-Fraumeni syndrome is
a condition of early breast cancer associated with soft tissue sarcomas
and other tumors. Neurofibromatosis results in developmental changes in
the nervous system, causing nerve tumors. Other abnormalities associated
with neurofibromatosis include skin changes and bone deformities.
Factors that may lead to increased risk of sarcoma are
exposure to high doses of herbicides that contain the chemical
phenoxyacetic acid, wood preservatives, which contain chlorophenols, as
well as large doses of radiation.
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