Causes of Liposarcoma

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Liposarcoma is a rare cancer that develops in the fatty tissue of the body, most commonly starting in the abdomen, thighs, and behind the knees. This cancer can also spread to other parts of the body including the organs.

There is no known cause of liposarcoma. Researchers have discovered certain risk factors that may increase a person's chances of developing this type of cancer, including genetics and previous exposure to radiation or toxic chemicals.

This article will review the risk factors associated with liposarcoma and what you can do to reduce your risk.

Scientist testing DNA

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Common Risk Factors

A risk factor is anything that increases the likelihood of developing a disease. There are no known causes of liposarcoma, but some risk factors have been identified for liposarcoma, including:

  • Sex: Men are slightly more likely to develop liposarcoma than women. In an analysis of 11,162 liposarcoma cases in the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Result (SEER) cancer registry, men accounted for 60% of liposarcoma cases, with the average age of onset between 50 and 65.
  • Race/ethnicity: Liposarcoma is more prevalent among white people than other races. In the SEER study, whites accounted for 86% of all liposarcoma cases.
  • Prior exposure to radiation: Radiation given to treat other cancers has been shown to increase the risk of developing soft tissue sarcoma, such as liposarcoma. However, this is rare. Radiation exposure accounts for less than 5% of all sarcomas.
  • Long-term exposure to chemicals: Occupational exposure to the industrial compound vinyl chloride, which is used to make plastic, has been associated with an increased risk of developing liposarcoma.
  • Genetics: Some familial cancer genes may increase the risk of liposarcoma.

Genetics

Liposarcoma is believed to be triggered by mutations (changes) to genes within fat cells that cause cells to grow uncontrollably. These genetic mutations occur sporadically (at random) or are acquired over a person's lifetime. They are not passed down from a parent.

There are some inherited genetic conditions that are known to increase a person's predisposition for developing cancer. Some of these conditions can increase the risk of liposarcoma, including:

  • Gardner syndrome: An inherited condition that causes polyps and tumors to develop in the colon, it also can cause tumors, such as liposarcoma, to form throughout the body.
  • Li-Fraumeni syndrome: This rare condition increases the risk of many types of cancer, including liposarcoma.
  • Werner syndrome: This condition triggers premature aging, which can lead to an increased risk for some cancers, including liposarcoma.

If you or anyone in your family has one of these conditions, it may be worth having a conversation with your healthcare provider. They can give you information about genetic testing, what you can do to reduce your cancer risk, and how to set up routine screenings to aid in catching any cancer that may develop as early as possible.

Lifestyle Risk Factors

Lifestyle factors, including diet, exercise, and smoking, have not been associated with an increased risk of developing liposarcoma. However, adopting healthy habits such as limiting alcohol, avoiding tobacco products, staying physically fit, and eating well are measures that have shown promise in reducing a person's overall cancer risk.

Summary

There is no definitive cause of liposarcoma. Certain risk factors, including being male, having prior exposure to radiation (such as during treatment for an earlier cancer), occupational exposure to industrial chemicals (particularly vinyl chloride), and having a familial cancer syndrome, may raise your likelihood of developing liposarcoma.

 A Word From Verywell

If you have been diagnosed with liposarcoma, you may be wondering how this happened to you. Know that there is nothing you could have done to avoid this very rare cancer. It was beyond your control, but you are not alone, and you can get through this with a strong support system around you.

If you know that you have a predisposition to cancer due to a genetic condition, make sure to have a conversation with your healthcare provider regarding your options and how you can lower your risk. Your healthcare provider can help you create a plan and a screening protocol that is right for you.

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5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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