Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor - GIST: Risk Factors

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 11/2022

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

What are the risk factors for GIST?

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 people 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. Most people diagnosed with a GIST are older than 50. These tumors can occur in people of any age but are rare in people younger than 40.

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

  • Genetic syndromes. GIST rarely runs in families, and having a family member with a GIST usually does not increase your risk of developing the disease. However, hereditary syndromes that can increase the risk of GIST include neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) and Carney-Stratakis dyad. A syndrome that is not hereditary called Carney triad may also increase the risk of GIST.

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 changes or medical problems a GIST can cause. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.