Osteosarcoma accounts for just over half of childhood bone tumours, with approximately 30 new cases each year in the UK.
Although osteosarcoma can develop in any bone, it occurs most often in the bones on either side of the knee (tibia or femur) and in the upper arm.
Osteosarcoma is extremely rare under the age of three years and gradually increases with age, with two thirds of childhood cases occurring in the 10 to 14 year age group. Incidence is similar in girls and boys up to age 14 years but a male excess emerges at around 15 to 16 years. This male excess arises earlier in Ewing sarcoma of bone (at 10 to 14 years).
In addition to these childhood cases, a further 45 teenagers and young adults (15 to 24 years) are diagnosed with osteosarcoma every year in the UK.
The survival rate for childhood osteosarcoma has increased in recent years to 65 per cent, thanks to recent innovations in treatment, including the use of multi-agent chemotherapy.
However, this bone cancer has amongst the lowest survival rates of all the childhood cancers, possibly due in part to late diagnosis.
The prognosis varies according to the grade, stage and response to treatment. If the tumour has spread (metastasised) to other parts of the body at the time of diagnosis, survival is drastically reduced. The estimated survival rate for patients with localised osteosarcoma is about 75 per cent compared to 30 per cent for patients with metastatic disease.
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