Cancers are caused by a sudden mutation (changes) in the cell's genetic material (deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA). The exact cause of such a mutation is unknown. Scientists have made progress in understanding the role of DNA in causing normal cells to become cancerous. DNA is the source of instructions for everything that our cells do.
2 Types of Genes Associated with Cancer
DNA consists of genes that are responsible for providing instructions to control when cells grow and divide. Two types of genes are associated with cancer development:
- Oncogenes: Genes that promote cell division.
- Tumor suppressor genes: Genes that slow down cell division or make cells die at the right time.
DNA change causing the activation of oncogenes and inactivation of tumor suppressor genes can lead to cancer. Some people may inherit the mutated DNA from their parents. The DNA mutations that cause some inherited forms of bone cancers are known. However, most bone cancers are not caused by inherited DNA mutations. Bone cancer may be caused by the mutation of DNA in a person’s lifetime due to exposure to radiation or cancer-causing chemicals.
What is bone cancer?
Bone cancer is the abnormal growth of cancerous cells in the bone destroying normal bone tissue. Bone cancers are rare, accounting for 0.2% of all cancers. Most bone cancers are noncancerous (benign). They can still weaken the bone and lead to broken bones or other problems. The most common benign (localized) bone tumors are:
- Osteochondroma: It usually occurs in people younger than 20 years.
- Giant cell tumor: It usually occurs in the leg.
- Osteoid osteoma: It often happens in long bones.
- Osteoblastoma: It is a rare tumor that grows in the spine and long bones.
- Enchondroma: It usually appears in the bones of the hands and feet.
Primary bone cancer (capable of spreading) are of the following types:
- Osteosarcoma: It often forms in the upper arm or around the knee.
- Ewing sarcoma: It starts in the soft tissue of the bone.
- Chondrosarcoma: It affects the cartilage of the bone.
- Chordoma: It originates in the lower spinal cord.
Risk factors for bone cancer
Some of the risk factors that may cause mutations in a person include:
- Genetic disorders: A small number of bone cancers are caused by mutations in specific genes. Retinoblastoma, a rare eye cancer in children is caused by a mutation of the RB1 gene. Those with this mutation also have an increased risk of developing bone or soft tissue sarcoma. Similarly, chondrosarcoma and chordomas are also formed due to mutation in genes.
- Paget disease: Paget disease is a benign condition that affects one or more bones in people older than 50 years. Osteosarcoma develops in about 1% of those with Paget disease, affecting multiple bones.
- Previous radiation exposure: Bones exposed to ionizing radiation have a high risk of developing bone cancer. Exposure to large doses of radiation, such as radiation therapy, can cause new cancer to develop in one of the bones.
- Radioactive materials: Exposure to radioactive materials such as radium and strontium can also cause bone cancer because these minerals are stored in the bones. Non-ionizing radiation, such as microwaves, electromagnetic fields from power lines, cellular phones, and household appliances, does not increase bone cancer risk.
- Bone marrow transplantation: Bone cancer has been reported in a few patients who have undergone bone marrow transplantation.
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