Multiple myeloma causes are largely unknown. Through extensive research, scientists have learned that this form of cancer develops when plasma cells in the bone marrow mutate and become malignant. As a result of genetic mutations, the unhealthy cells grow and divide at a very rapid pace and don’t die when they normally should, producing an abundance of abnormal cells that can crowd out the healthy cells. The malignant plasma cells can also invade the bones and form tumors known as plasmacytomas. When multiple plasmacytomas develop, the condition is known as multiple myeloma.
Certain studies suggest that the process plasma cells undergo to become malignant may be linked to several factors. For instance, multiple myeloma causes are believed to include:
- Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) – Many patients with multiple myeloma were initially diagnosed with MGUS, a rare plasma cell condition.
- Family history – Individuals with a parent, sibling or child who has been diagnosed with myeloma or MGUS are two to three times more likely to develop these same conditions, which can sometimes progress to multiple myeloma.
- Immune system deficiencies – Individuals who take medications designed to lower the body’s immunity level following an organ transplant, as well as people who have viruses that damage the body’s immune system, such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and human T-lymphotropic virus (HTLV), have an increased likelihood of developing multiple myeloma.
- Exposure to chemicals – While the findings are inconclusive, it has been suggested that people may have an elevated risk of developing multiple myeloma if they are or were farmers, woodworkers, painters, hairdressers or firefighters, or workers in the oil and gas, leather or rubber industries.
It’s important to note that these factors are not definitive multiple myeloma causes. However, individuals with any of these characteristics who are experiencing common myeloma symptoms, including persistent fatigue, anemia, bone pain, excessive bleeding or chronic infections, should promptly follow up with a health care provider.
Every day, more is being learned about multiple myeloma causes. Leading the way in this area is Moffitt Cancer Center, the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center based in Florida. Through our highly focused research efforts, we continue to transform the diagnosis and treatment of multiple myeloma. The physicians in our Malignant Hematology Program are among the best in the country, and our patients have access to advanced therapies, including promising clinical trials, in a single, convenient location. Moffitt’s patient outcomes and survival rates consistently outrank national averages, and our patients enjoy an enhanced quality of life.