Risk Factors for Multiple Myeloma

A risk factor is something that affects a person's chance of getting a disease. Some risk factors, such as smoking or a healthy lifestyle, can be controlled. You cannot change your age or race, both of which are risk factors for many diseases. It is important to note that 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.

Scientists have found few risk factors that may make a person more likely to get multiple myeloma.

  • Age
    The risk of multiple myeloma goes up with age. Very few cases are found in people younger than 35. Most people with this cancer are over 65 years old.
  • Gender
    Men are slightly more likely to get multiple myeloma than women.
  • Race
    Multiple myeloma is almost twice as common among black Americans as white Americans. The reason is not known.
  • Radiation
    Exposure to radiation may increase the risk of multiple myeloma. At most, this accounts for a very small number of cases.
  • Family History
    This cancer seems to run in some families. If a person has a parent, brother, or sister with the disease, their risk of getting it is four times higher than that of other people. But this is rare. Most patients have no other relatives with the disease.
  • Workplace Exposure
    Some studies suggest that workers in some oil-related industries may be at a higher risk.
  • Weight
    A study by the American Cancer Society found that being overweight or obese increases a person's risk of getting this cancer.
  • Other Plasma Cell Diseases
    Many people with certain other plasma cell diseases will develop multiple myeloma later.