By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Multiple myeloma affects thousands of people worldwide and is the second most common cancer of the blood only to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Multiple myeloma accounts for around 1% of all cancers worldwide and for about 2% of cancer-related deaths. The most common age of onset is between 65 and 70 years. However, recent estimates suggest that the age of onset is actually decreasing.
Currently, nearly 45,000 people are affected with this cancer in the United States and around 14,600 new cases of the disease are diagnosed annually.
The American Cancer Society predicted that in 2013, around 22,350 new cases of multiple myeloma would be diagnosed (12,440 in men and 9,910 in women) and around 10,710 deaths would occur (6,070 in men and 4,640 in women).
Male gender increases the risk for multiple myeloma, which is slightly more prevalent in men than women. African Americans appear to be at the highest risk for the disease, while Asians are at the lowest risk. One study demonstrated that the incidence of myeloma in African Americans is 9.5 per 100,000 people while among Caucasian Americans, the rate is 4.1 per 100,000 individuals. In the African American population, myeloma is among the top ten cancers to cause death.
Certain occupations that involve exposure to contaminants such as herbicides, insecticides, heavy metals, and dusts such as asbestos seem to increase the risk for multiple myeloma and exposure to high quantities of radiation can also increase the risk.
In the United Kingdom, the yearly incidence of this disease is around 60 to 70 per million people. Affected individuals are usually diagnosed around the age of 70 years and only 15% of patients are below the age of 60 when the cancer is detected. In the UK, the cancer is also more common among Afro-Caribbean ethnic groups than in Caucasians.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc
Last Updated: Feb 5, 2014