10 Risks And Treatment Options For Multiple Myeloma

10 Risks And Treatment Options For Multiple Myeloma

Multiple myeloma is a cancer that affects plasma cells, white blood cells that produce antibodies to help the body ward off infection. Plasma cells are primarily located in bone marrow but are found in other tissues and organs as well. Multiple myeloma occurs when plasma cells change and stop behaving normally. These abnormal plasma cells divide uncontrollably, creating more abnormal plasma cells. This uncontrolled cell growth causes cancer when the abnormal plasma cells take over the bone marrow and prevent normal blood cells from developing and functioning. The cause of multiple myeloma remains a mystery, but the following six factors increase the risk of developing the disease.

Age
Older adults are more susceptible to developing multiple myeloma. The disease is more common in people over the age of sixty years, and the average age at diagnosis is seventy years. Very few cases, only two percent, occur in people under forty years old. This can be compared to the twelve percent of people with leukemia, the eight percent of people with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and the thirty-six percent of people with Hodgkin’s lymphoma under the age of forty. Studies have shown that the number of cases of multiple myeloma among seniors is rising, but the reason for this increase is unknown. Older patients are generally more difficult to treat than patients in their forties because older adults tend to develop multiple illnesses by the time they approach the eighty-year mark. Death from multiple myeloma tends to be more common among the elderly.

Race
Multiple myeloma is one of the most common blood-related diseases among African Americans. After lymphoma and leukemia, it is the third-most-common blood cancer. Multiple myeloma occurs twice as often among African Americans as it does among Caucasians, especially as age increases. This may be because Caucasian patients tend to respond to treatments for multiple myeloma whereas African American patients often do not. Multiple myeloma is also more common in North Africa, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean. Asian Americans are least likely to develop this type of cancer. Researchers have not yet discovered why race is a risk factor for developing multiple myeloma.

Gender
Men have a slightly higher risk of developing multiple myeloma than women do. However, in a study conducted by the American Association for Cancer Research, scientists found that more women than men with multiple myeloma developed lesions; scientists believe the reason for this is based on genetics. For classification purposes only, researchers have noted that men are more likely than women to have hyperdiploidy (that is, a higher chromosome count). Women are more likely to have immunoglobulin, natural antibodies that plasma cells produce. Although these differences are significant, researchers are unsure of their relationship to multiple myeloma. In both the number of the new cases of multiple myeloma and in deaths, men slightly outnumber women.

Workplace
Differences in the work environments of men and women may partially explain why men have a higher risk of developing multiple myeloma than women do. In a study conducted by Sweden’s Organization for Working Environment, Occupational Safety and Health, researchers found that exposure to diesel exhaust increased workers’ risk of developing multiple myeloma. Other studies have shown that radiation from an atomic bomb blast also increases the risk of multiple myeloma, as does exposure to lower levels of radiation. Additional industries associated with higher rates of multiple myeloma include agriculture, leather production, petroleum, and cosmetology. Chemicals used in these industries that are known to increase the risk for multiple myeloma include insecticides, herbicides, petroleum products, plastics, asbestos, and heavy metals.

Obesity
Class 1 obesity is defined as having a body-mass index (BMI) of 30 to 34.9. Class 2 obesity is defined as having a BMI of 35 to 39. People with Class 3 obesity have a BMI over forty. Harvard researchers believe that any class of obesity is a risk factor for developing multiple myeloma and that obese people are at greater risk than people with a body-mass index between 18.5 and 29. Their research also shows that obesity is a greater risk factor for men than for women. Interleukin-6 is present in fat tissue, and researchers are looking into whether this and any other factors associated with obesity are linked to multiple myeloma.

Family History
Many patients with multiple myeloma do not have family members with the disease because the condition is so rare. However, multiple myeloma does run in some families, and if people have an immediate family member who has multiple myeloma, their chance of developing the disease is three to four times greater. Some studies have also shown that families of African ancestry have a higher risk. Researchers have concluded there are some genetic factors linked to the disease, including loci (where genes are located on chromosomes). Doctors discovered this link in the 1920s with studies of family members affected by multiple myeloma. Other similar cases have arisen since then, and experts continue to explore the significance of genetic factors.

The Four Best Treatments For Multiple Myeloma
There is no cure for multiple myeloma, but there are treatment options available. Four of the best treatment options include chemotherapy, corticosteroids, stem cell transplants, and radiation. Chemotherapy is the injection of anti-cancer medication into the body to stop cell division and kill cancer cells. This treatment greatly affects the immune system, and some side effects include hair loss, pain, nausea, vomiting, and extreme weakness. Corticosteroids are usually taken before a stem cell transplant. Corticosteroids prevent white blood cells from crowding areas in the body that have been damaged by cancer cells. This makes transplants safer by limiting swelling and inflammation in these areas. A stem cell transplant is typically used in combination with other treatments. For example, a patient may first undergo chemotherapy and then take corticosteroids before receiving a stem cell transplant. If the cancer is localized, radiation therapy can be used to kill the cancer cells. Radiation treatment is usually given in low doses to minimize side effects.