Although multiple myeloma is a relatively rare type of cancer, worldwide incidence rates are rising, most noticeably in Australia, New Zealand, Western Europe, and the United States.
In addition to weakening the body’s ability to fight infections, myeloma can lead to other chronic health issues, such as fewer blood cells, impaired kidney function, and weakened bones.
Even though multiple myeloma is a relatively rare type of cancer, it’s becoming more commonly diagnosed worldwide. According to a
This article reviews what we know about multiple myeloma, including how common it is, what causes it, and whether you can lower your risk of developing this disease.
Fast facts about multiple myeloma
- Multiple myeloma is the
14th most common type of cancer, making it relatively rare.
- Since 1990, incidence rates have increased by
126% globally and by more than 40% in the United States.
- In 2020, an estimated
170,405 peoplewere living with myeloma in the United States.
- Myeloma is slightly more common in
men. African Americans are twice as likely to receive a diagnosis of myelomathan white Americans.
- More than
85% of peoplewith this type of cancer receive a diagnosis after the age of 55.
Multiple myeloma diagnoses are increasing around the world. A
Regions with the lowest incidence are western Africa, Melanesia, and Southeastern Asia.
According to the
Here are the
|Race||Prevalence per 100,000 people|
|All races||Male: 8.7. Female: 5.8|
|Hispanic||Male: 8.0. Female: 5.7|
|American Indian/Alaska Native||Male: 7.9. Female: 6.2|
|Asian/Pacific Islander||Male: 5.0. Female: 3.2|
|Black||Male: 16.8. Female: 12.8|
|white||Male: 8.1. Female: 5.0|
You’ll notice that the language used to share statistics in the table above and throughout the article is pretty binary. Although we typically avoid language like this, specificity is key when reporting on research participants and clinical findings. Unfortunately, the statistics referenced in the above table didn’t include data on participants who were transgender, nonbinary, gender nonconforming, genderqueer, agender, or genderless.
Although the reason behind the worldwide rising incidence rates of multiple myeloma remains unclear, researchers theorize that it might be related to improvements in early recognition and diagnosis, as well as the rise of
Doctors still aren’t entirely sure
But researchers have identified risk factors associated with the disease. These include:
- Age: As people get older, they’re more likely to receive a diagnosis of multiple myeloma. Most diagnoses occur in
people ages 65 years or older.
Men are more likely to develop myelomathan women.
- Race: In the United States,
Black Americans are twice as likely to develop multiple myelomathan white Americans.
- Family history of myeloma: Myeloma can run in families, so having a parent or sibling with this type of cancer
increases your risk.
- Having other plasma cell diseases: People who already have plasma cell diseases, such as monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance or solitary plasmacytoma, are at an
increased risk of developing myeloma.
- Having obesity: In adults, obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of
30.0 or greater. It’s a risk factor for myeloma.
- bone issues
- bone pain
- bone weakness
- spinal cord compression
- severe back pain
- muscle weakness or numbness in your legs
- anemia, leukopenia, or thrombocytopenia (due to fewer red blood cells, fewer white blood cells, and platelets)
- shortness of breath
- lower resistance to infections such as pneumonia
- excessive bleeding with minor scrapes or bruises
- hypercalcemia (high levels of calcium in your blood)
- extreme thirst
- constant urge to pee
- stomach pain
- loss of appetite
- fatigue or weakness
- hyperviscosity (thickening of the blood, which can slow blood flow to the brain)
- stroke symptoms
- impaired kidney function (inability to drain excess salt, fluid, and waste products)
- shortness of breath
- leg swelling
Multiple myeloma is a rare type of cancer that’s becoming more prevalent in the world, particularly in developed countries such as Australia, Western Europe, and the United States.
Because of how rare this disease is, little is known about which risk factors play a role in developing multiple myeloma. But there are noticeable trends in the prevalence of the disease when it comes to sex and race.
Myeloma is more prevalent in people assigned male at birth. It’s also twice as common in Black Americans than in white Americans.
As with any type of cancer, prevention and early diagnosis is key. If you’ve been experiencing any of the symptoms of myeloma or are concerned about your risk of developing this condition, consider reaching out to a doctor.