Risk factors influence the chance of developing cancer among individuals, but individuals with no risk factors also develop cancer. Some people with no risk of desmoid tumors develop the disease, whereas others with several risk factors don’t develop. The actual cause of desmoid tumors is still unknown. It is assumed that tumors are formed when some DNA mutations happen in the body’s connective tissues bringing changes in connective tissue cells to multiply rapidly without any control. Some of the risk factors that cause the development of desmoid tumors include young age, gender, pregnancy, estrogen exposure, injury and chances of anybody trauma, Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), and Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor (GIST).
Risk Factors Associated with Desmoid Tumors
Risk factors refer to the factors that can increase a person’s chance or probability of developing a tumor or any illness. Risk factors are not seen as the direct cause of desmoid tumor or a disease but can influence its development. We can see that some people with no risk of desmoid tumors develop the disease, whereas some others with several risk factors don’t develop 1. People should closely watch themselves and understand the factors that can be risky for their health and well-being. A good understanding of your risk factors and communicating it on time with your care provider would help you make better healthcare choices and an informed, comfortable lifestyle.
The actual cause of desmoid tumors is still unknown. Doctors assume that these tumors are formed when certain DNA mutations happen in the body’s connective tissues. These DNA changes cause the connective tissue cells to multiply rapidly without any control, creating a mass or tumor that can starve, destroy and invade healthy body tissues.
The following are the risk factors that can increase a person’s chance of developing desmoid tumours:
- Young Age: young adults who belong to the age group of the 20s and 30s are seen to be at a higher risk of developing desmoid tumors. These tumors are rare in children and older adults.
- Gender: desmoid tumors are slightly more common in women than in men.
- Pregnancy: in some rare cases, women may develop desmoid tumors during or soon after pregnancy. Desmoid tumors related to pregnancy usually occurs in the wall of the abdomen. Studies say that these tumors may result from the abdominal wall stretching during the pregnancy period, high estrogen levels during pregnancy or both.
- Estrogen exposure: some research shows that high levels of the female hormone estrogen in the body can increase the risk of desmoid tumors 2.
- Injury or any body trauma: researches reveal that severe and repeated trauma to the body, like surgery or a grave injury, can increase a person’s risk of developing a desmoid tumor at the injury site (scar). A small number of people do develop the tumor in this way.
- FAP or Familial adenomatous polyposis: A genetic syndrome like FAP can cause many colon polyps to develop in the body. People with a rare, inherited disorder called familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) are at a high risk of developing desmoid tumors 3. FAP disorder is also called Gardner syndrome. FAP results from gene mutations that can be passed down from one generation to another. People with FAP often develop intra-abdominal tumors. Around 10%-20% of people with FAP develop desmoid tumors. Surveys show that desmoid tumors are the second most common cause of death in people with familial adenomatous polyposis or FAP. These tumors cause around 9% to 11% of deaths in FAP patients. Hence some people who develop desmoid tumors, specifically in the intra-abdominal area, need to be screened for FAP.
- Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor (GIST): some studies show that people who have had Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor (GIST), a type of sarcoma, are at a higher risk of developing desmoid tumors 4. Hence, for people with Stromal gastrointestinal tumors with nodules in an unusual location or at a surgical incision site, a biopsy would be recommended to look for any tumor growths.
- 1.Sinha A, Tekkis PP, Gibbons DC, Phillips RK, Clark SK. Risk factors predicting desmoid occurrence in patients with familial adenomatous polyposis: a meta-analysis. Colorectal Disease. Published online June 2, 2010:1222-1229. doi:10.1111/j.1463-1318.2010.02345.x
- 2.Janinis J, Patriki M, Vini L, Aravantinos G, Whelan JS. The pharmacological treatment of aggressive fibromatosis: a systematic review. Annals of Oncology. Published online February 2003:181-190. doi:10.1093/annonc/mdg064
- 3.Bertario L, Russo A, Sala P, et al. Genotype and phenotype factors as determinants of desmoid tumors in patients with familial adenomatous polyposis. Int J Cancer. Published online 2001:102-107. doi:4.Dumont AG, Rink L, Godwin AK, et al. A nonrandom association of gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) and desmoid tumor (deep fibromatosis): case series of 28 patients. Annals of Oncology. Published online May 2012:1335-1340. doi:10.1093/annonc/mdr442