Causes of Synovial Sarcoma

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Synovial sarcoma is a type of cancer that attacks soft tissues, typically in the arms and legs. The exact cause of this condition is not well understood. However, there are a few risk factors that might increase your chances of developing synovial sarcoma.

Common Causes and Risk Factors

Synovial sarcoma is a rare type of soft tissue sarcoma. The exact causes of synovial sarcoma are not known.

Unlike lung cancer, which can often be linked directly to a history of smoking, there aren’t any lifestyle habits that directly increase your risk of synovial sarcoma. However, researchers have found some other risk factors that might increase your chance of getting soft tissue sarcomas.

A history of radiation treatment for other cancers could increase your risk of synovial sarcoma. These tumors can start in areas of the body that are treated with radiation, but the average time between radiation and the development of a sarcoma is 10 years. However, radiation accounts for less than 5% of sarcomas.

Potential Genetic Risk Factors for Developing Synovial Sarcoma

Verywell / Laura Porter


Some patients with synovial sarcoma have been found to have a specific gene translocation. Structures that hold genes inside cells are called chromosomes. Gene translocation means that the chromosomes are out of place. This causes genes that were originally separate from each other to fuse together.

In synovial sarcoma, the X chromosome fuses with chromosome 18. This occurs in both males and females equally.

Synovial sarcoma is not inherited from family members, but specific gene defects that are inherited can also increase your risk of developing soft tissue sarcomas. These are identified as a group called family cancer disorders and include:

  • Neurofibromatosis (von Recklinghausen disease): This rare genetic disorder causes the growth of noncancerous tumors in the nerves and skin. Sarcomas can develop inside these tumors. This occurs in about 5% of people with neurofibromatosis.
  • Gardner syndrome: This condition causes the growth of polyps and tumors in the colon (large intestine) and rectum. It can also cause tumors in other areas of the body.
  • Li-Fraumeni syndrome: The genetic defect associated with this syndrome increases the risk of developing many different types of cancer, including sarcomas. It also increases your risk of developing cancer from past radiation treatments.
  • Retinoblastoma: Having eye cancer in childhood can increase your chance of developing soft tissue sarcoma—particularly if you also had radiation treatment.
  • Werner syndrome (progeria): This progressive condition, which causes a person to look decades older than they actually are, can increase the risk of developing many types of cancer.
  • Gorlin syndrome (nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome): While this condition is associated with a very high risk of skin cancer, it also increases your risk of soft tissue sarcoma.
  • Tuberous sclerosis: This disease causes noncancerous tumors to grow in the brain and other important internal organs. Tuberous sclerosis increases the risk of soft tissue sarcoma, but specifically affects muscle tissue cells rather than stem cells that make up synovial sarcomas.

Lifestyle Risk Factors

You can reduce your risk of many types of cancer by changing your habits. If you don’t smoke, you have less of a chance of getting lung cancer. If you use sunscreen, you’re less likely to get skin cancer.

Unfortunately, there are no known lifestyle habits that increase or decrease your chances of getting synovial sarcoma. Even injuries that cause damage to the same structures affected by synovial sarcoma do not increase your risk of cancer.

While you might not have much control over whether or not you get synovial sarcoma, healthy lifestyle habits can improve your quality of life and overall rate of survival after a diagnosis is made.

Exercise and Diet Can Help With Prevention

Research suggests that maintaining a healthy body weight, eating a high-quality diet, and regularly participating in physical activity might lower a person’s risk of death after being diagnosed with cancer. Getting regular exercise during treatment can also help combat fatigue and weakness that often occur as a side effect.

Always consult your doctor before engaging in any type of new exercise program—especially if you have synovial sarcoma. Depending on the location of your cancer, certain types of exercise might be off-limits until you are healed.

Choosing not to smoke and consuming alcohol in moderation can also have a positive effect on outcomes. However, it’s important to note that most of the research in this area included patients with a variety of cancers, and more research is needed.

A Word From Verywell

Cancer can be a scary diagnosis, and there isn’t much you can do to control whether or not you end up with synovial sarcoma. However, making healthy lifestyle choices can improve your overall well-being if you do have cancer.

Follow your doctor’s treatment plan, and ask for tips about physical activity and consuming high-quality foods to help improve your quality of life during and after treatment.

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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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