Oncologist-approved cancer information from the American Society of Clinical Oncology
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Multiple Myeloma

This section has been reviewed and approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 6/2013
Risk Factors

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about what factors increase the chance of this type of cancer. To see other pages in this guide, use the colored boxes on the right side of your screen, or click “Next” at the bottom.

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

The causes of myeloma are not known or well understood, and there are currently no known ways to prevent it. There are also no strong risk factors for myeloma. Mutations (changes) in plasma cells are acquired, not inherited, so having a relative with the disease usually does not mean another family member is at higher risk for developing it. There appears to be a very slight increase in the incidence of the disease in first-degree relatives (parents or siblings) of people with multiple myeloma, but this link has not been shown to be genetic at this time.

The following factors can raise a person's risk of developing myeloma:

Age. Myeloma occurs most commonly in people over 60. The average age at diagnosis is 70. Only 2% of cases occur in people under 40.

Race. Myeloma occurs twice as frequently in black people than in white people for unclear reasons.

Exposure to radiation and chemicals. People who have been exposed to radiation or to asbestos, benzene, pesticides, and other chemicals used in rubber manufacturing may be at higher risk for developing myeloma.

Personal history. People with a history of a solitary plasmacytoma of the bone are at greater risk for developing multiple myeloma.

Monoclonal gammopathy of unknown significance (MGUS). A person with a low level of a certain antibody protein in his or her blood, called the M protein, have a 1% chance of developing myeloma or another blood-related cancer called lymphoma per year (see the Stages section for more information).

Gender. Myeloma is slightly more common in men.

Choose “Next” (below, right) to continue reading this guide to learn about what symptoms this type of cancer can cause. Or, use the colored boxes located on the right side of your screen to visit any section.

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