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Chondrosarcoma is a cancer of cartilage cells, which are found at the ends of bones in joints, in the breastbone, windpipe, voicebox, face and ears. Chondrosarcoma is considered a type of bone cancer. Non-cancerous tumors of cartilage are more common than cancerous ones.

What is chondrosarcoma?

Chondrosarcoma occurs in about 26 percent of all bone cancer cases, according to the American Cancer Society. Chondrosarcoma develops in cartilage cells. Cartilage is the specialized, gristly connective tissue that is present in adults and the tissue from which most bones develop. Cartilage plays an important role in the growth process. There are many different types of cartilage that are present throughout the body. Chondrosarcoma is a malignant type of bone cancer that primarily affects the cartilage cells of the femur (thighbone), arm, pelvis, knee, and spine. Although less frequent, other areas (such as the ribs) may be affected.

Chondrosarcoma is the second most common type of primary bone cancer. A primary bone cancer is one that originates from bone versus another organ. This type of cancer rarely affects individuals under age 20 and is most common between the ages of 50 and 70. The incidence between males and females is equal.

What causes chondrosarcoma?

The exact cause of chondrosarcoma is not known. There may be a genetic or chromosomal component that predisposes certain individuals to this type of malignancy.

What are the risk factors for chondrosarcoma?

Most often, chondrosarcoma occurs from normal cartilage cells, but it may also stem from a preexisting benign (non-cancerous) bone or cartilage tumor. The following is a list of some benign conditions that may be present when chondrosarcoma occurs:

  • enchondromas - a type of benign bone tumor that originates from cartilage and usually affects the hands (can also affect other areas).
  • osteochondromas - an overgrowth of cartilage and bone near the end of the bone near the growth plate.
  • multiple exostoses - the presence of multiple osteochondromas (an overgrowth of cartilage and bone near the end of the growth plate).
  • Ollier's disease - a cluster of enchondromas (benign cartilage tumor that usually affects the hands).
  • Maffucci's syndrome - a combination of multiple enchondroma (benign cartilage tumors that usually affects the hands) tumors and angiomas (benign tumors made up of blood vessels).