Noteworthy Numbers: Bone Cancer

TON - August 2019, Vol 12, No 4

Primary bone cancer is rare, accounting for <0.2% of all new cancers diagnosed in the United States.1

This type of cancer, which starts in the bone itself, is very different from secondary bone cancer, which metastasizes from cancerous tumors in other parts of the body.2 The following provides key statistics and other helpful information regarding primary bone cancer.

The American Cancer Society estimates that 3500 individuals (2030 men and boys and 1470 women and girls) will be diagnosed with bone cancer in the United States in 2019, and approximately 1660 individuals (960 men and boys and 700 women and girls) will die from the disease in the same year.1,3

Approximately 0.1% of men and women will be diagnosed with primary bone cancer at some point during their lifetime, and in 2016, an estimated 55,529 individuals were living with primary bone cancer in the United States.4

Primary bone cancer is more frequently diagnosed in children and young adults aged 10 to 20 years, with the highest percentage (26.6%) of new cases occurring in children and young adults aged <20 years.1,4 In adults, the median age at diagnosis is 44 years.4

In adults, >40% of primary bone cancers are chondrosarcomas, followed by osteosarcomas (28%), chordomas (10%), Ewing sarcomas (8%), and malignant fibrous histiocytomas/fibrosarcomas (4%).1 In children and young adults, osteosarcoma (56%) and Ewing sarcoma (34%) are much more common than chondrosarcoma (6%).1

Approximately 40% of all primary bone cancers are diagnosed at an early stage,4 and the 5-year survival rate for adults and children diagnosed with the disease at this stage is approximately 85%.4 The 5-year survival rate for adult patients with bone cancer is 66%. Individuals with chondrosarcoma have a 5-year survival rate of 80% compared with 54% for those with osteosarcoma.4

The inherited form of retinoblastoma, a rare eye cancer in children, is caused by a mutation of the RB1 gene. Individuals with this mutation have an increased risk for developing bone or soft-tissue sarcomas. In addition, radiation therapy used to treat the retinoblastoma can increase the risk for osteosarcoma in the bones around the eye.1

Multiple exostoses syndrome is an inherited condition that causes numerous bumps on an individual’s bones. These bumps, which are primarily made of cartilage, can be painful and lead to deformed or fractured bones. The disorder is caused by a mutation in any one of 3 genes (EXT1, EXT2, or EXT3). Patients with this condition have an increased risk for developing chondrosarcoma.1

Patients who have been exposed to ionizing radiation may also have a higher risk of developing bone cancer. For example, radiation therapy used to treat cancer can cause a new cancer to develop in one of the bones in the treatment area. Patients who are treated with radiation when they are younger and/or who have been treated with higher doses of radiation (typically >60 Gy) have an increased risk for developing bone cancer.1


  1. American Cancer Society. Bone cancer. Updated February 5, 2018. Accessed July 9, 2019.
  2. National Cancer Institute. Primary bone cancer. November 20, 2018. Accessed July 9, 2019.
  3. Cancer.Net. Bone cancer: statistics. November 2018. Accessed July 9, 2019.
  4. National Cancer Institute. Cancer stat facts: bone and joint cancer. Accessed July 9, 2019.

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