What increases my risk of multiple myeloma?

woman with doctor

The cause of multiple myeloma is unknown. But there are certain things called risk factors that can increase your chance of developing the disease. These include:          

  • Age: Multiple myeloma happens mostly in people aged over 50.
  • Gender: It is more common in men than women.
  • Race: It is more common in black people than in white or Asian people.
  • Exposure to gases and chemicals: Lifelong exposure to chemicals can affect your immune system and increase your risk. These include petrol, oil, benzene, certain pesticides, dioxins, paints, rubber and hair dyes. 
  • Plasma cell conditions: People with monoclonal gammopathy of uncertain significance (MGUS) or smouldering myeloma or amyloidosis have a much higher risk of myeloma.  
  • Other medical conditions: These include autoimmune illnesses, pernicious anaemia, ankylosing spondylitis and other illnesses that affect your immune system.
  • Exposure to viruses: These include HIV, hepatitis, herpes virus 8 and simian virus 40.
  • Exposure to radiation: This includes exposure to high doses of radiation in industry or nuclear accidents or to previous radiotherapy.
  • Family history: If your parent, brother or sister had multiple myeloma your risk is increased but the risk is low. 

Having a risk factor doesn’t mean you will get cancer. Sometimes people with no risk factors get the disease. If you’re worried, talk to your GP or talk to one of our cancer nurses. Call our Support Line on 1800 200 700 or visit a Daffodil Centre.

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