Currently, very few GIST risk factors are known. Essentially, a gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) risk factor is anything that increases a person’s likelihood of developing a GIST. Many individuals with GISTs have no risk factors. Likewise, even if an individual has one or more risk factors, this does not necessarily mean that he or she will ultimately develop the condition.
Among the possible GIST risk factors is advanced age. While GISTs have been diagnosed in people of all ages, the condition is relatively rare in individuals who are younger than 40, and most often affects individuals who are 50 to 80. Also, in rare instances, GISTs have been found in several members of the same family who have inherited a certain gene mutation. This has led some scientists to believe that certain genetic syndromes may be linked to GISTs. For instance, some possible genetic GIST risk factors that have been identified by researchers include:
- Familial gastrointestinal stromal tumor syndrome – Caused by an abnormal c-kit gene that is passed from parent to child
- Neurofibromatosis type 1 (or von Recklinghausen disease) – Caused by a defect in the NF1 gene
- Carney-Stratakis syndrome – Caused by a change in one of the succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) genes
While tobacco use, excess weight and poor nutrition are not believed to be standalone GIST risk factors, statistics show that people who refrain from smoking, stay active to maintain a healthy weight and consume a variety of fruits and vegetables have a lower overall cancer risk than those who pursue less healthy lifestyles.
The multispecialty team of cancer experts in Moffitt Cancer Center’s Gastrointestinal Oncology Program is available to answer your questions about GIST risk factors and help you assess your own risk level. No referral is needed to schedule an appointment; call 1-888-MOFFITT or complete our online registration form.