What is myeloma?
Over 5,000 people are diagnosed with myeloma each year in the UK. There are no clear causes, but there are some things which can increase your risk.
Here’s what we do know:
The likelihood of developing myeloma rises as you get older, with 95% of cases diagnosed in people aged over 50. It’s very rare for people under 40 to get myeloma. Myeloma doesn’t affect children.
Men are more likely than women to develop myeloma – we don’t know why. In the UK, around six out of ten cases of myeloma (60%) are in men, compared to four out of ten (40%) in women.
A parent, child, brother or sister of someone with myeloma is two or three times more likely to develop myeloma than other people. However, the risk for any person is still very low.
People of African-Caribbean origin are roughly twice as likely as other races to get myeloma – we don’t know exactly why.
Sometimes, small identical copies (clones) of plasma cells develop and produce a low amount of paraprotein but there are no other features of myeloma. This is called monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS).
MGUS is quite a common condition which affects about three in a hundred people (3%) over the age of 50 in the UK. It's generally harmless and causes no obvious damage, so no treatment is needed and people aren’t routinely screened for it.
People with MGUS have a higher risk of developing myeloma – around one in a hundred people with MGUS (1%) go on to develop myeloma each year.
Anyone with MGUS will have regular blood and urine tests, to make sure it’s not progressing.
Find out more about MGUS.