Primary bone cancer is rare. Fewer than 500 people are diagnosed with it in the UK each year. It can occur at any age and is slightly more common in males than females.
There are several different types of primary bone cancers.
Osteosarcoma (also called osteogenic sarcoma)
This is the most common type of primary bone cancer. In the UK, nearly a third of all primary bone cancers are osteosarcoma – about 150 people are diagnosed with it each year. Osteosarcoma is most common in teenagers and young adults but people of any age can be affected. It’s most likely to develop in a bone in the upper arm (humerus), thigh bone (femur) or shin bone (tibia).
Ewing’s sarcoma is named after the surgeon who first described it. This type of bone cancer is more common in young people than adults. Any bone can be affected, but the pelvis, thigh bone (femur) and the shin bone (tibia) are the most common sites. It is also possible for Ewing’s sarcoma to start in the soft tissues of the body. This is known as extraosseous (‘extra’ means outside, ‘osseous’ means bone) Ewing’s sarcoma.
Chondrosarcoma is usually a slow-growing tumour and is most common in middle- age. The cancer starts in cartilage cells, although it can also grow within a bone or on its surface. The most common places in the body for it to develop are the upper arm (humerus) or thigh bone (femur). But it can occur in other bones such as the ribs, pelvis or shoulder blade (scapula).
Spindle cell sarcoma
Spindle cell sarcomas are a rare type of bone cancer that tend to affect people of middle-age or older. They are extremely rare in people under 20. There are four types of spindle cell sarcoma: malignant fibrous histiocytoma, fibrosarcoma, leiomyosarcoma and undifferentiated sarcoma of the bone. The four types are explained further below:
This is an extremely rare cancer. It starts in the bones of the spine, either in the bottom of the spine (the sacrum) or in the neck. It can occur at any age, but is more common in people in their 40s and 50s. It tends to be a slow-growing tumour.
Angiosarcoma can occur at any age, but is very rare in people under 20. Angiosarcomas can affect any bone. They can develop in more than one bone at the same time, or in more than one place in a single bone.
JASCAP has further fact sheets about the types of bone cancer mentioned in this section.