Bone Cancer Primary Types

Primary bone cancers start in the bone. Although these cancers are rare, making up much less than 1 percent of all cancers, a variety of primary bone cancer types can develop (National Cancer Institute, 2008).

The most common primary bone cancer type is bone sarcoma, which includes the following:

  • Chondrosarcoma develops in cartilage. Cartilage is fibrous tissue usually found at the ends of bones where they form a joint. Chondrosarcoma most commonly occurs in the pelvis, leg bone or arm bone, although these tumors can develop in other locations.
  • Ewing sarcoma usually develops in bones, but this tumor can start in other tissues and organs. Ewing sarcoma occurs most often in children and teenagers and is rare in people over age 30.
  • Fibrosarcoma usually starts in soft tissue, but it can occur in bones. This type of sarcoma typically affects only middle-aged and older adults.
  • Osteosarcoma usually develops between ages 10 and 19 and is the most common primary bone cancer, according to the American Cancer Society (2010). Osteosarcoma can also occur in people over age 40 who have certain medical conditions, such as Paget’s disease (a benign condition involving abnormal development of new bone cells).

Other rare primary bone cancer types include:

  • Adamantinoma is a slow-growing tumor that occurs most often in the shin (lower leg) bone or the jawbone of males between the ages of 10 and 30.
  • Chordoma usually develops at the base of the skull, at the base of the spine, or in the tailbone, although a chordoma can develop anywhere along the spine. These rare bone cancers, which make up about 1 percent of all bone cancers, usually occur in people between the age of 40 and 70 (American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 2010).
  • Giant cell tumor of bone can be either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant. Most commonly, these tumors are benign.
  • Malignant fibrous histiocytoma starts in soft tissue more often than in bone. When this cancer does start in bone, it’s usually in the legs or arms of middle-aged and older adults

Benign Tumors

In addition to bone cancers, benign tumors can form in bones. Benign tumors are rarely life threatening, and they are usually easily removed with surgery. Some names of benign bone tumors include:

  • Chondromyxoid fibroma
  • Enchondroma
  • Osteoblastoma
  • Osteochondroma
  • Osteoid osteoma.

Multiple Myeloma

In multiple myeloma, the bone marrow produces too many plasma cells (white blood cells that produce antibodies). These cells attack and destroy bone. Some sources identify multiple myeloma as a primary bone cancer and others consider it a type of blood cancer, as it has characteristics of both types of disease.


American Cancer Society. (2010). What is bone cancer? Retrieved September 23, 2010, from

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. (2010). Chordoma. Retrieved September 23, 2010, from

Children’s Hospital Boston. (2010). Adamantinoma. Retrieved September 23, 2010, from

National Cancer Institute. (2008). Bone cancer: Questions and answers. Retrieved September 23, 2010, from