Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Cancer and BioMed Central.

Open Access Open Badges Research article

Should tumor depth be included in prognostication of soft tissue sarcoma?

Anders Rydholm* and Pelle Gustafson

Author Affiliations

Department of Orthopedics, University Hospital, SE-221 85 Lund, Sweden

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Cancer 2003, 3:17  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-3-17

Published: 26 May 2003



Most staging systems for soft tissue sarcoma are based on histologic malignancy-grade, tumor size and tumor depth. These factors are generally dichotomized, size at 5 cm. We believe it is unlikely that tumor depth per se should influence a tumor's metastatic capability. Therefore we hypothesized that the unfavourable prognostic importance of depth could be explained by the close association between size and depth, deep-seated tumors on average being larger than the superficial ones. When tumor size is dichotomized, this effect should be most pronounced in the large size (>5 cm) group in which the size span is larger.


We analyzed the associations between tumor size and depth and the prognostic importance of grade, size and depth in a population-based series of 490 adult patients with soft tissue sarcoma of the extremity or trunk wall with complete, 4.5 years minimum, follow-up.


Multivariate analysis showed no major prognostic effect of tumor depth when grade and size were taken into account. The mean size of small tumors was the same whether superficial or deep but the mean size of large and deep-seated tumors were one third larger than that of large but superficial tumors. Tumor depth influenced the prognosis in the subset of high-grade and large tumors. In this subset deep-seated tumors had poorer survival rate than superficial tumors, which could be explained by the larger mean size of the deep-seated tumors.


Most of the prognostic value of tumor depth in soft tissue sarcomas of the extremity or trunk wall can be explained by the association between tumor size and depth.

prognosis; soft tissue sarcoma; staging; tumor depth