Children, Cancer, and the Environment

Soft Tissue Sarcoma

Soft tissue sarcoma is cancer of soft tissues such as muscles or blood vessels.† These are often called connective tissues.† This category includes a variety of different forms of cancer, but the most common form of soft tissue sarcoma in children is rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer of the muscle tissue (1).

The causes of these diseases are not well understood.† For adults, risk factors are thought to include exposure to pesticides and radiation (2).† For children, there is some evidence that soft tissue sarcoma is more common for children in families with other cancers.†

A study of cases occurring in a defined population in Sweden from 1990 to 1998 reported that radiation exposures and occupational exposures to herbicides, agricultural work, or painting was associated with increased risk for adults (2).† The study did not address children.

A study of children diagnosed with cancer in the Denver area found a strong association between parentsí application of pesticides in the yard and the development of soft tissue sarcomas (3).††

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1.†Campleman SL, Schlag R, Perkins CL, Glazer E, Kwong SL, Cress RD, Wright WE. Childhood Cancer in California 1988-94. Sacramento: California Department of Health Services, 1999.

2.† Olsson H. A review of the epidemiology of soft tissue sarcoma. Acta Orthopaedica Scandinavica. Supplementum 1999; 285:8-10.

3. Leiss JK, Savitz DA. Home pesticide use and childhood cancer: a case-control study. American Journal of Public Health 1995; 85:249-52.

4.†Kristensen P, Andersen A, Irgens LM, Bye AS, Sundheim L. Cancer in offspring of parents engaged in agricultural activities in Norway: incidence and risk factors in the farm environment. International Journal of Cancer 1996; 65:39-50.

5.††Magnani C, Pastore G, Luzzatto L, Terracini B. Parental occupation and other environmental factors in the etiology of leukemias and non-Hodgkin's lymphomas in childhood: a case-control study. Tumori 1990; 76:413-9.

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