Lead Author(s): 

William G. Ward, Sr., MD
David J. Sheedy, MPH
Elaine G. Russell, PhD, RN

Supporting Author(s): 

Sylvia I. Watkins-Castillo, PhD

Soft tissue sarcomas account for less than 1% of all cancer cases diagnosed each year, and for a similar proportion of cancer deaths in any given year.

In terms of case numbers, the musculoskeletal health burden in the United States from soft tissue sarcomas is three to four times greater than that of bone and joint sarcomas. For the period from 2010 to 2014, the annual average number of soft tissue neoplasms, including the heart, approximated 15,500 cases/year in the SEER database. Estimated new cases for 2018 by the American Cancer Society are 13,040.1 Soft tissue sarcomas come in a wide variety of forms that affect different age groups, but the most frequently encountered soft tissue sarcomas affect adults age 45 and older. (Reference Table 6A.A.1.3.1 PDF CSV)

As previously noted, the National Cancer Data Base (NCDB), a joint program of the Commission on Cancer and the American College of Surgeons, maintains the most thorough database on patients diagnosed with soft tissue sarcomas. Although the NCDB was not created to serve as an incidence­ based registry, it currently gathers data on approximately 72% of the cancers treated in the United States.2 It should be noted this percentage varies from year to year based on the participation and reporting by hospitals to this voluntary database.

A 2014 report by Corey, Swett, and Ward examined the adult cases reported to the NCDB of soft tissue sarcomas during a 13-year interval (1998-2010). In 2010, 5,070 soft tissue sarcomas were reported to the NCDB. While the numbers of soft tissue sarcomas reported to the NCDB increased by 19% over this 13-year period, the number of bone sarcomas reported to the NCDB increased by only 10.7% during this same time.3 However the NCDB is not an incidence or prevalence based database, and the number can simply reflect a change in makeup of the reporting member institutions.

  • 1. American Cancer Society. Cancer A-Z. Key Statistics for Soft Tissue Sarcoma. Available at . Accessed January 29, 2018.
  • 2. Mallin K, Browner A, Palis B, et al. Incident cases captured in the National Cancer Database compared with those in U.S. population based Central Cancer Registries in 2012-2014. Ann Surg Oncol 2019 Jun;26(6):1604-1612. doi: 10.1245/s10434-019-07213-1. Epub 2019 Feb 8. Accessed December 27, 2019.
  • 3. Corey RM, Swett K, Ward WG. Epidemiology and survivorship of soft tissue sarcomas in adults: a national cancer database report. Cancer Med. 2014 Oct;3(5);1404-15. doi: 10.1002/cam4.288.


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