Myeloma Risk Factors

Myeloma – Risk Factors

Multiple myeloma (MM) blood cancer is a rare disorder. Early diagnosis may be difficult because symptoms often go unnoticed until the disease has progressed.

Knowing your risk factors can help you determine whether testing is advisable. Here are some factors to consider when discussing your health status with a doctor:

Age:  Most people are diagnosed with multiple myeloma between the ages of 65 – 70. Less than 1% of myeloma cases affect those younger than 35.

Race: Black men and Black women are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with multiple myeloma as any other race or ethnic group, and they are often diagnosed 5 – 10 years earlier.

Gender: Men are diagnosed with multiple myeloma in slightly higher numbers than women. *

*Patient risk factors are based on gender assigned at birth.

Heredity: Although multiple myeloma is not an inherited condition, individuals with a first degree relative who has multiple myeloma or monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) are at a greater risk of developing the disease. This risk increases if multiple family members are diagnosed.

Even though multiple myeloma can run in families, not everyone with a family history will develop it.


  • Exposure to radiation, asbestos, petroleum, agricultural or woodworking chemicals, benzene, dioxins, pesticides, and herbicides increases risk.
  • Obesity is a modifiable risk factor.

Maintaining a healthy weight is always recommended for better health outcomes.

Other Health Conditions Which May Increase Risk for Developing Myeloma

Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS): MGUS is a benign condition that indicates the presence of monoclonal protein (M protein) in the blood but at a lower level than multiple myeloma and without the patient suffering organ damage.  It can progress to active myeloma in approximately 20% of MGUS patients.

HIV: HIV-infected patients are at an increased risk for plasma cell disorders, such as MGUS and MM.

Pernicious Anemia: An autoimmune condition that prevents the absorption of Vitamin B12, which may increase the risk of myeloma.

Ankylosing Spondylitis (Bechterew’s disease): A type of arthritis that causes inflammation in the spine and fused vertebrae may also increase the risk of developing multiple myeloma.

Solitary Plasmacytoma: A rare disorder characterized by a plasma cell tumor that grows in a single location, usually the bone, rather than throughout the body.  Approximately 70% of patients with solitary plasmacytoma will develop multiple myeloma.

Extramedullary Plasmacytoma: A plasma cell tumor that typically grows in the lungs, throat, or other organs.  The rate of progression to multiple myeloma is much lower than for those patients diagnosed with solitary plasmacytoma.

Plasmacytomas are uncommon.