A risk factor is anything that changes a person’s chance of getting a disease such as cancer. Different cancers have different risk factors. For example, exposing skin to strong sunlight is a risk factor for skin cancer. Smoking is a risk factor for lung cancer and many other cancers. But risk factors don’t tell us everything. People who have no risk factors can still get the disease. Also, having a risk factor, or even several, does not mean that a person will get the disease.
Here are a few risk factors that could affect someone’s chance of getting multiple myeloma.
The risk of developing multiple myeloma goes up as people get older. Less than 1% of cases are diagnosed in people younger than 35. Most people diagnosed with this cancer are at least 65 years old.
Men are slightly more likely to develop multiple myeloma than women.
Multiple myeloma is more than twice as common in African Americans than in white Americans. The reason is not known.
Multiple myeloma seems to run in some families. Someone who has a sibling or parent with myeloma is more likely to get it than someone who does not have this family history. Still, most patients have no affected relatives, so this accounts for only a small number of cases.
Being overweight or obese increases a person’s risk of developing myeloma.
People with monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) or solitary plasmacytoma are at higher risk of developing multiple myeloma than someone who does not have these diseases.
Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.
Alexander DD, Mink PJ, Adami HO, et al. Multiple myeloma: a review of the epidemiologic literature. Int J Cancer. 2007;120 Suppl 12:40-61.
Howlader N, Noone AM, Krapcho M, Miller D, Bishop K, Kosary CL, Yu M, Ruhl J, Tatalovich Z, Mariotto A, Lewis DR, Chen HS, Feuer EJ, Cronin KA (eds). SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975-2014, National Cancer Institute. Bethesda, MD, https://seer.cancer.gov/csr/1975_2014/, based on November 2016 SEER data submission, posted to the SEER web site, April 2017.
Marshall A. Lichtman. Obesity and the Risk for a Hematological Malignancy: Leukemia, Lymphoma, or Myeloma. Oncologist. 2010 Oct; 15(10): 1083–1101.
Munshi NC, Anderson KC. Ch. 112 Plasma cell neoplasms. In: DeVita VT, Hellman S, Rosenberg SA, eds. Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 10th edition. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2015.
Rajkumar SV, Dispenzieri A. Multiple myeloma and related disorders. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Doroshow JH, Kastan MB, Tepper JE. Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 5th edition. Philadelphia, PA. Elsevier: 2014:1991-2017.
VanValkenburg ME, Pruitt GI, Brill IK, et al. Family history of hematologic malignancies and risk of multiple myeloma: differences by race and clinical features. Cancer Causes Control. 2016 Jan;27(1):81-91.
Last Revised: February 28, 2018