Cancer in any form is a tricky thing to cure. There are many factors that contribute to the formation of cancer and for many cancers it is difficult to pinpoint the specific cause of the cancer. This couldn’t be any truer for bone cancer. Bone cancer symptoms are as vague as its causes and there is still little known about the specific causes of it. For most bone cancers symptoms can develop around adolescence with the exception of osteosarcoma which most commonly develops in those who are 60 to 70 years of age. While specific causes for bone cancer are unknown, there are known genetic risk factors that increase your chances of developing several forms of cancer.

RB1 Mutation

The RB1 mutation is a mutation in one’s DNA that is the cause of familial retinoblastoma which is a cancer that effects the retina in the eye. RB1 mutations can be inherited and have a strong correlation to the development of bone cancer. The mutation itself slightly makes an individual more susceptible to bone cancer but the more detrimental part of retinoblastoma is the treatment of retinoblastoma that increases one’s likelihood of bone cancer. The kind of treatment used to treat retinoblastoma is typically radiation. The radiation will impact nearby bones of the skull and can result in osteosarcoma formation around the bone of the eye. Symptoms of this kind or bone cancer include impaired vision and pain in the eye effected. 

Multiple exostoses

Multiple exostoses is a genetic condition that causes abnormal growth on bones typically long bones. The symptoms typically appear early in life around 4 to 5 years of age. Typical symptoms include bone deformities, differences in limb length, as well as pressure on nerves. While the symptoms seem to overlap with the symptoms of bone cancer the condition is not considered cancerous. That being said about 5% of those with multiple exostoses end up getting bone cancer. Those with multiple exostoses or those with a family history of multiple exostoses should consider getting frequent screenings done to ensure they catch any potential cancer early. By catching cancer early, it becomes much more manageable to treat and there is a higher likelihood of being able to achieve remission.

Growth Hormone

Bone cancer typically occur only in specific bones. These bones being long bones which continue to grow until early adulthood. Long bones include the tibia, fibula, metatarsals, phalanges, humerus, radius, and ulna. The reason these bones are more susceptible to cancer is that they have areas called growth plates that experience constant cell division during adolescence and growing. There have been some studies that growth hormone therapy can increase your chances of getting certain forms of bone cancer. While the exact mechanism is unknown for what effects human growth hormone has, it can be reasonably hypothesized that it has to do with the growth plates and some sort of malfunction which allows these growth plate cells to rapidly proliferate uncontrollably.

As cancer continues to impact our populations, we need to become more vigilant in cancer research and hunting down answers. Bone cancer and many other cancers are still not very well understood. There is a general knowledge that cancers arrive due to mutations in the genetic code, however further research needs to be conducted to find the specific sites of mutation. Knowing the specific mutations in genes that result in cancer is the best form of prevention we have against cancer. The BRCA genes that are linked to breast cancer have saved many lives by giving those people with the gene this advanced knowledge about themselves which allows them to pay more attention to warning signs and get more screenings done to avoid more severe stages of cancer if they were left undetected. If a similar gene is discovered that correlates to bone cancer there will be much more effective preventative measures.

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