Multiple myeloma risk factors

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1] Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Haytham Allaham, M.D. [2]; Shyam Patel [3]


Risk factors for multiple myeloma include advanced age, African American race, male gender, obesity, exposure to chemicals and radiation, the presence of family history of hematologic conditions.

Risk Factors

The table below lists the risk factors for multiple myeloma:

Risk Factor Description
Age The chance of developing multiple myeloma increases with age, as somatic mutations in plasma cells accumulate with aging. The median age of diagnosis of multiple myeloma is 61. Only 1% of multiple myeloma cases are diagnosed in patients younger than 35 years.[1][2][3]
Race African Americans and Native Pacific Islanders are at higher risk of developing multiple myeloma compared to Caucasians.[4][3][5]
Gender Males are more commonly affected by multiple myeloma than females.[2][3]
Presence of other plasma cell disorders Patients with other plasma cell disorders such as monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) or smoldering multiple myeloma are at increased risk for development of active multiple myeloma.[6][3] The risk for progression to active multiple myeloma depends on the plasma cell burden, free light chain ratio, and subtype of paraprotein.
Family history A familial predisposition to myeloma exists due to hyperphosphorylation of specific proteins that may contribute to a higher rates of multiple myeloma in certain groups.[7][4][8][3] Patients with germline mutations in tumor suppressors such as TP53 may be at increased risk for multiple myeloma.
Obesity Obesity increases a person's risk of developing multiple myeloma, as is true for other types of malignancies.[6][3] The pathophysiologic basis for the link between obesity and multiple myeloma is not well described.
Workplace exposures Petroleum workers and farmers tend to have higher incidence of multiple myeloma relative to other occupations.[9][6][3] Agent Orange exposure may also be linked to the development of multiple myeloma. Agent Orange exposure is common among U.S. veterans.
Presence of other diseases There is a slight increase in the risk for developing multiple myeloma among patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. There is a weak association between systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and multiple myeloma, especially in the United States and Canada. Other autoimmune conditions such as pernicious anemia and ankylosing spondylitis are associated with significantly increased risk for developing multiple myeloma.[10]
Radiation People who were exposed to radiation (atomic bombs or nuclear accidents) have a higher risk for developing multiple myeloma.[6][3] Ionizing radiation is more likely to cause multiple myeloma compared to other types of radiation, as ionizing radiation induces DNA damage.


  1. Press Releases. Compugen (2015) Accessed on September, 20th 2015
  2. 2.0 2.1 Multiple myeloma. Radiopaedia (2015) Accessed on September, 20th 2015
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 Multiple myeloma. The American Cancer Society (2015) Accessed on September, 20 2015
  4. 4.0 4.1 Multiple myeloma. Wikipedia (2015) Accessed on September, 20th 2015
  5. Seer stat fact sheet. National cancer institute (2015) Accessed on September, 20th 2015
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Multiple myeloma. MedlinePlus (2015) Accessed on Septmeber, 20th 2015
  7. Bourguet, CC.; Grufferman, S.; Delzell, E.; DeLong, ER.; Cohen, HJ. (1985). "Multiple myeloma and family history of cancer. A case-control study". Cancer. 56 (8): 2133–9. PMID 4027940. Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  8. Koura DT, Langston AA (2013). "Inherited predisposition to multiple myeloma". Ther Adv Hematol. 4 (4): 291–7. doi:10.1177/2040620713485375. PMC 3734900. PMID 23926460.
  9. Gallagher, RP.; Spinelli, JJ.; Elwood, JM.; Skippen, DH. (1983). "Allergies and agricultural exposure as risk factors for multiple myeloma". Br J Cancer. 48 (6): 853–7. PMID 6652026. Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  10. Sergentanis TN, Zagouri F, Tsilimidos G, Tsagianni A, Tseliou M, Dimopoulos MA, Psaltopoulou T (October 2015). "Risk Factors for Multiple Myeloma: A Systematic Review of Meta-Analyses". Clin Lymphoma Myeloma Leuk. 15 (10): 563–77.e1–3. doi:10.1016/j.clml.2015.06.003. PMID 26294217.