Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor - GIST: Risk Factors

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 09/2018

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about the factors that increase the chance of developing a GIST. Use the menu to see other pages.

A risk factor is anything that increases a person’s chance of developing a tumor. Although risk factors often influence the development of a tumor, most do not directly cause the disease. Some people with several risk factors never develop a tumor, while others with no known risk factors do. Knowing your risk factors and talking about them with your doctor may help you make more informed lifestyle and health care choices.

The majority of GISTs develop sporadically, which means for no known reason. Doctors are rarely able to find a specific risk factor for patients diagnosed with a GIST, other than the hereditary syndromes discussed below. However, the following factors may raise a person’s risk for developing a GIST:

  • Age. GIST most often occurs in people older than 50.

  • Gender. GIST is slightly more common in men than in women.

  • Family history. GIST rarely runs in families, and having a family member with a GIST usually does not increase your risk of developing the disease. Hereditary syndromes that can increase the risk of GIST include neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) and Carney-Stratakis dyad.

Because no non-hereditary, preventable risk factors have been found, there is no good way to prevent GIST.

The next section in this guide is Symptoms and Signs. It explains what body changes or medical problems a GIST can cause. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.