What is the prevalence of soft-tissue tumors?

Updated: Dec 03, 2018
  • Author: Vinod B Shidham, MD, FRCPath; Chief Editor: Omohodion (Odion) Binitie, MD  more...
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In general, benign soft-tissue tumors occur at least 10 times more frequently than malignant ones, though the true incidence of soft-tissue tumors is not well documented. However, some insight regarding the incidence of soft-tissue sarcomas can be derived from the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program, which, between 1973 and 1983, accumulated data on 6883 such tumors.

Overall, the age-adjusted annual incidence of soft-tissue sarcomas ranges from 15 to 35 per 1 million population. The incidence increases steadily with age and is slightly higher in men than in women. Malignant soft-tissue tumors occur twice as often as primary bone sarcomas.

Approximately 45% of sarcomas occur in the lower extremities, 15% in the upper extremities, 10% in the head-and-neck region, 15% in the retroperitoneum, and the remaining 15% in the abdominal and chest wall. Visceral sarcomas, arising from the connective tissue stroma in parenchymal organs, are not common.

The different types of soft-tissue tumors have distinct age distributions. Rhabdomyosarcoma is seen more frequently in children and young adults. Synovial sarcoma arises in young adults. Malignant fibrous histiocytoma and liposarcoma generally occur in older adults. Benign deep masses in adults usually are due to intramuscular lipoma.

In general, the prognosis in older patients with a diagnosis of high-grade sarcoma is poor.

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