A risk factor is something that increases your chances of getting a disease or condition. It is possible to develop multiple myeloma with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing multiple myeloma. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.

Factors that may increase your risk of multiple myeloma include:

  • Age—Multiple myeloma is rare in people under 40 years old. It is most common those aged 65 years and older.
  • Family history—Although multiple myeloma tends to run in families, it is possible to have the disease without a family history.
  • Occupational or environmental exposures—Working in the petroleum or agriculture industries is associated with multiple myeloma. Radiation from a nuclear bomb fallout increases the risk of many blood-related cancers, including multiple myeloma. Radiation from other sources, such as medical treatments, may increase the risk, but it is not associated with many cases.
  • Ethnicity—Multiple myeloma rates in those of African American descent are nearly double those in Caucasians.
  • Medical conditions—Certain medical condition are associated with increased risk. These include:
    • Previous history of myeloma
    • Monoclonal gammopathy of unknown significance (MGUS)— The blood type of plasma protein, gamma globulin, combines with other proteins to make several antibodies. Normally many different types of gamma globulin are produced to deal with different infections. When most of the protein being produced is one particular form of gamma globulin, it results in monoclonal gammopathy
    • Obesity—Being overweight is associated with a increased risk of MGUS, a known risk factor for multiple myeloma. Risk is compounded as weight increases.
    • Amyloidosis—Abnormal proteins accumulate in various organs of the body. The accumulation of these proteins causes the affected organs to malfunction. Amyloidosis is rare, but it is associated with multiple myeloma.

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