Leiomyosarcoma: A Soft Tissue Sarcoma Image

Leiomyosarcoma (LMS) is a rare cancerous tumor of the smooth muscle cells. It is a soft tissue sarcoma, which are cancers that attack soft tissues such as fat and muscle cells.

What are Smooth Muscle Cells?

The body has two distinct types of muscles: voluntary and involuntary. Voluntary muscles refer to the muscle groups that control the deliberate physical activities of the body, such as the biceps, triceps, abdominal and pectoral muscles.

Smooth muscle cells, on the other hand, are involuntary muscles, over which we have no control. Located throughout the body, smooth muscle cells are typically found in the blood vessel walls, uterus, stomach, intestines and skin.

Soft Tissue Sarcoma and Smooth Muscle Tumors

Soft tissue sarcoma can develop anywhere along the smooth muscle, the supportive structure that connects the various organs of the body, including the tendons, cartilage and synovial tissue that surrounds joints, soft fibrous tissues, blood vessels, skin, soft fatty tissue, and the soft tissue of the nervous system.

Causes and Risk Factors for Soft Tissue Sarcoma and Leiomyosarcoma

Although research has yet to establish the cause or causes of soft tissue sarcomas, including leiomyosarcoma, risk factors may include:

  • Age: Leiomyosarcoma is far more prevalent in adults over the age of fifty.
  • Heredity: Certain inherited diseases, includingneurofibromatosis (also known as von Recklinghausen’sdisease) and Li-Fraumeni syndrome, increase the risk of developing soft tissue sarcoma.
  • Chemical exposure: Herbicides, chlorophenol wood preservatives, and industrial pollutants, such as vinyl in the manufacturing of plastics, appear to increase one’s risk.

Symptoms of Soft Tissue Sarcoma

Soft tissue sarcomas tend to be asymptomatic in the early stages. Often, malignancies of the smooth muscle cells are only detected when a large soft tissue sarcoma grows and begins to displace the normal tissue, typically of the intestine or blood or lymph systems.

Soft Tissue Sarcoma and The Epstein Barr Virus

Recent findings reported by Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia, point to a link between the Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) and the development of soft tissue sarcoma in smooth muscles throughout the body.

The most commonly experienced symptom is a painless swelling or mass arising from the smooth muscle cells. Symptoms of a more advanced soft tissue sarcoma may include weight loss and pain as the tumor pushes against adjacent muscles and nerves.

Artery and Vein Cells

Statistics for Soft Tissue Sarcoma and Leiomyosarcoma

  • Soft tissue sarcomas account for approximately one percent(approximately 8,100) of new cancer cases each year in the United States.
  • Approximately ten percent of the total new cases of soft tissuesarcomas occur in children and teenagers.
  • About fifty percent of all soft tissue sarcomas occur in the smooth muscle cells of the body’s extremities including arms, nipples, legs, hands and feet.
  • About forty percent occur in the chest, back, hips, shoulders,gastrointestinal tract and abdomen.
  • Only ten percent occur in the head and neck.
  • Leiomyosarcoma accounts for around fifteen percent of cases of soft tissue sarcoma cases.
  • Leiomyosarcoma affects mainly adults with an average age ofaround sixty years.


Bioscience.org. (nd). Leiomyosarcoma. Retrieved September 3, 2003, from www.bioscience.org/atlases/tumpath/musbone/muscle/3/synposis. htm.

Leiomyosarcoma.org. (2003). What is Leiomyosarcoma?. Retrieved September 3, 2003, from www.leiomyosarcoma.info/basic.htm.