What are the types of sarcoma?

The two large groups of sarcomas are soft tissue sarcomas and bone sarcomas.

 Medical illustraion of soft tissue sarcoma.


Soft tissue sarcomas start in muscles, tendons, fat, blood vessels, skin and nerves. They are most often found in the arms, legs, abdomen and chest. There are many different types of soft tissue sarcomas – more than 50 – and the type usually depends on where in the body the cancer starts.

    • Gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) These cancers start in the intestinal tract, usually in the stomach.
    • Liposarcoma These tumors begin in the fat tissue.   
    • FibrosarcomaThis type of tumor starts in the fibrous tissue.   
    • LeiomyosarcomaThis type of tumor starts in the muscle tissue.
    • Synovial sarcoma This is a cancer that starts in the tissue around joints, and is most commonly found in the knee, ankle, hip and shoulder.
    • Undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma (UPS) This type of quickly growing tumor can occur anywhere in the body, but most often starts in the back of the abdomen, thighs or arms. It is one of the most common types of sarcoma and used to be called Malignant Fibrous Histiocytoma (MFH).
    • Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors These rare tumors start in the cells that line a nerve.
    • Angiosarcoma This type of tumor starts in the blood vessels. Angiosarcomas may develop in areas previously treated with radiation, or in extremities with chronic swelling (lymphedema). 
    • Epithelioid sarcoma These tumors usually start under the skin of the hands, forearms, lower legs or feet. It most often affects young adults.
    • Alveolar soft-part sarcoma This type of tumor usually starts in the legs and most often affects young adults. It is extremely rare.
    • Clear cell sarcoma These tumors usually start in the tendons in the arms or legs. It has features of both a sarcoma and malignant melanoma.
    • Kaposi sarcoma This type of sarcoma starts in the cells that line the lymph nodes. It is caused by the Human Herpes Virus 8 and usually affects the skin.
    • Extraskeletal myxoid chondrosarcoma (EMC) These tumors are usually painless, soft and slow-growing. They tend to form in the legs or feet and spread to other parts of the body.

Bone sarcomas form in the cells that make hard bone tissue. Although they usually affect children and young adults, anyone can get bone cancer at any age. The most common  types of bone cancer include:

  • Osteosarcoma This is the most common type of bone cancer and usually starts at the ends of bones, where tissue forms. It usually affects children and young adults.
  • Chondrosarcoma This type of bone sarcoma forms in cartilage and is most often found in the pelvis, knees, upper thighs or shoulders.
  • Ewing sarcoma These tumors usually form in the middle of the bone and most often affect the hips, ribs, upper arms and thighs. It mainly affects children and  young adults.

Other, rare forms of bone cancer include:

  • Fibrosarcoma This type usually appears in the hips or knees, often after radiation therapy for cancer.
  • Giant cell tumors These tumors usually start in the knees and often affect women and young adults.
  • Adamantinoma. These tumors usually start in the shin bone.
  • Chordoma This type of bone sarcoma starts in the lower part of the spine near the tailbone.
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