Multiple myeloma is a relatively rare cancer that develops in the bone marrow. As the cancerous plasma cells accumulate in the marrow, they crowd out other healthy blood cells.
Unfortunately, the symptoms including bone pain, mental fogginess, excessive thirst may develop slowly over time and don’t usually appear until the disease reaches an advanced stage. In some cases, the disease is only discovered during a routine blood test or a test to diagnose another condition.
So how do you know you’re at risk? According to the American Cancer Society, there are a few factors that may increase your chances of developing Multiple myeloma. They include the following:
The risk of Multiple myeloma increases as people age. Less than 1 percent of cases are diagnosed in those younger than 35. Most people diagnosed with Multiple myeloma are 65 or older.
Men are a little bit more likely to develop this form of cancer than women.
Multiple myeloma is twice as common—and twice as deadly—in Black Americans. Additionally, the incidence of conditions associated with the development of myeloma (including monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance or MGUS) is high in Black Americans.
An American Cancer Society study found being overweight or obese increases the chances of developing myeloma. African Americans, especially women, carry the biggest obesity burden of all the populations in this country.
Multiple myeloma appears to run in some families. People who have a parent or sibling with the disease are four times more likely to get it. That said, most patients have no relatives with the disease, so this accounts for a few cases.
Exposure to radiation (even at lower levels) may also increase the risk of Multiple myeloma, though experts say this accounts for only a small number of cases.
OTHER PLASMA CELL DISEASES
Many people with monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) or solitary plasmacytoma will eventually develop Multiple myeloma.
Now that you know the risks, there is a silver lining if you do develop the disease. People with Multiple myeloma are living longer than ever before thanks to new treatments including stem cell transplant and gene therapy.