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Open Access Editorial

Hereditary and environmental epidemiology of sarcomas

David M Thomas14*, Sharon A Savage2 and Gareth L Bond3

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Cancer Medicine, Sir Peter MacCallum Department of Oncology, University of Melbourne, East Melbourne, Australia

2 Clinical Genetics Branch, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Rockville, MD, 20892, USA

3 Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, University of Oxford, Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine, Old Road Campus Research Building, Oxford, OX3 7DQ, UK

4 Sarcoma Genomics and Genetics Laboratory, Division of Cancer Medicine and Research Division, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, St Andrew’s Place, East Melbourne, VIC 3002, Australia

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Clinical Sarcoma Research 2012, 2:13  doi:10.1186/2045-3329-2-13

Published: 4 October 2012

First paragraph (this article has no abstract)

Epidemiology is the study of the patterns and determinants of health-related events and the application of this knowledge to the control of disease. It is important in understanding disease incidence and helpful for the discovery of disease risk factors. Sarcomas are rare and heterogeneous and, as such, pose significant challenges epidemiologically. In most parts of the world, sarcomas are estimated to account for 1-3% of all cancers. Moreover, sarcomas comprise over 50 different histological subtypes, which are being reclassified continually, as new entities are defined with new technologies and new classifications. Sarcoma subtypes range from diseases that arise in a putative stem cell-like population (primitive neuroectodermal tumors) to those arising from morphologically recognisable connective tissues such as bone, fat and cartilage. The outcomes for patients with sarcomas are equally heterogeneous. Taking all of the subtypes together, sarcomas collectively meet the US Rare Diseases Act (2002) definition of any condition that affects fewer than 200,000 people by some margin. The peculiarities of the epidemiology of sarcoma are outlined in this series by Burningham et al. [1].