Myeloma, also called multiple myeloma, is a cancer that starts in the plasma cells. Leaf through the following article to know about the possible myeloma causes and associated risk factors.
Myeloma is the most common type of plasma cell cancer. Along with the other parts of the immune system, plasma cells protect the body from germs and other harmful substances. They are a type of white blood cells. Regular physical checkup is essential for the first-degree relatives of multiple myeloma patients and all senior citizens, as they are highly prone to acquiring the disease.
What is Myeloma?
➜ The soft material present in the center of most bones is known as bone marrow. Bone marrow contains stem cells, which give rise to most blood cells. As we all know, white blood cells help in fighting infections and red blood cells carry and supply oxygen to all tissues in the body.
➜ Platelets play an important role in blood clotting in order to control bleeding. Several types of white blood cells (WBCs) are present in the body, and plasma cells are WBCs that make antibodies, which are an important part of the immune system.
➜ In cancer, new cells are generated though the body doesn’t require them, and at the same time, old or damaged cells don’t die when they should. These extra cells then form a mass of tissue called tumor. When a plasma cell starts behaving abnormally and divides to make copies of itself, it indicates the onset of myeloma.
➜ The process continues as the new cells divide rapidly and generate more abnormal cells. These abnormal plasma cells are known as myeloma cells.
➜ As a large number of myeloma cells accumulate in the bone marrow, the solid part of the bone gets damaged. Gradually, these destructive cells collect in the other bones. This condition is known as multiple myeloma.
➜ The abnormally growing cells can affect other tissues and distant organs, such as kidneys. The antibodies called M proteins and other proteins, created by myeloma cells, accumulate in the blood, urine, and organs of the patient.
Certain Risk Factors
The exact causes of myeloma are not yet known. One cannot acquire it from another person, as it isn’t contagious. It is a challenge for researchers to find out why a person develops a particular disease, especially cancer, while the other person does not. Let us take a look at the risk factors that increase the chances of developing this problem.
Scientific research has shown that a person’s risk of developing multiple myeloma may be higher if a close relative was or is affected by the disease.
Though the reason for the difference between racial groups is not known, it has been observed that the risk of multiple myeloma is highest among African Americans and lowest among Asian Americans.
Statistical reports show that maximum number of patients diagnosed with myeloma are over the age of 65. This disease is detected very rarely in people younger than 35. This means that with the advent of age, there is an increased chance of developing this disorder.
According to the available statistics, each year in the U.S., about 11,200 men and 8,700 women are diagnosed with multiple myeloma. Though it is not known why more men are diagnosed with the disease, it is believed that being a man increases the risk of developing this disease.
Monoclonal Gammopathy of Undetermined Significance (MGUS)
- M proteins generated by abnormal plasma cells are sometimes detected in blood tests. This condition is called MGUS, which is a benign condition.
- Generally, no other symptoms are noticed. People with MGUS may develop certain cancers, such as multiple myeloma.
- There is no treatment to prevent cancer, but it is recommended that people with MGUS should get regular lab tests done to check for any further increase in the level of M proteins.
- They should regularly consult their physician and undergo tests to check for the development of symptoms.
- They should be aware of the multiple myeloma symptoms, as survival rate is higher when the disease is diagnosed at an early stage.
The causes of myeloma are yet to be confirmed. Doctors and scientists are studying many other suspected risk factors. More research is needed to find out answers to some questions. For example, whether exposure to certain harmful chemicals or germs (especially viruses), alterations in certain genes, consumption of certain foods, or obesity increases the risk of developing this disease.
Please bear in mind that people above 60 should go for routine checkups, and the life expectancy in this problem is highest when the cancer is diagnosed in the first stages. The above-mentioned risk factors cannot be described as causes of myeloma, because many times, it has been observed that people with an increased risk for this disease never develop it. So, people who have one or more risk factors should not panic, as this does not suggest that you will develop myeloma.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.