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About Multiple Myeloma

The Who & Why    of Myeloma

Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells.


Multiple myeloma, also known as myeloma, is the second most common blood cancer and makes up about 1% of all cancers.  Multiple myeloma starts in the plasma cells in bone marrow.


Plasma cells are a type of white blood cell and they are antibody-producing (immunoglobulin-producing) cells.  A malignant or cancerous cell is called a myeloma cell.  It's called multiple because there are frequently multiple patches in the bone marrow where it grows.


Bone marrow is the soft, spongy tissue found in the center of many bones and is where blood cells are produced.  The most common areas of the bone marrow affected by myeloma are the spine, skull, pelvis, rib cage and areas around the shoulders and hips.


Areas of bone loss caused by myeloma are commonly called lesions.  Lesions occur when groups of myeloma cells cause other cells in the bone marrow to remove the solid part of the bone.  This results in weakened bones and an increased risk of fractures. Although common, these lesions or other signs of bone loss do not occur in all multiple myeloma patients.


WHO: Those over 65 are most commonly diagnosed and it is more prevalant in African americans and males.  Although, there's an increasing number of younger patients being diagnosed. There is some family tendency (about 3-5%), but it is generally not thought to be hereditary.
WHY: There is no specific cause, but it's thought that exposure to toxic chemicals, atomic radiation, anything suppressing or interferring with the immune system, or infection with cancer-causing viruses can cause myeloma.



Click here for a glossary of myeloma terms.

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