What Causes Myeloma?

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  • Written By: Jami Yontz
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 07 April 2019
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Myeloma is a form of plasma cell cancer that has no known cause. The disease begins when a plasma cell, a type of white blood cell in bone marrow tissue, begins reproducing abnormal cells. These cells travel throughout the body, reproducing and infiltrating other sites made of bone marrow. Abnormal cells also cause plasma to multiply in higher numbers than is normal, causing additional damage to the body. This disease is also known as multiple myeloma because of its cell multiplying characteristic.

Studies have shown that people with genetic plasma cell abnormalities may be more likely to develop the disease because most myeloma cells lack chromosome 13. Scientists have also linked the disease to an abnormality in dendritic cells, which can cause an overproduction of the hormone that causes plasma cells to develop. Men, people over the age of 65, those of African American descent, and people who are overweight are more likely to be diagnosed with the condition. Patients with monoclonal gammopathy of undertermined significance (MGUS), a plasma cell disorder, also have a higher chance of developing this disease.

Myeloma symptoms usually present themselves in the form of other complications or conditions. Early onset osteoporosis or severe bone pain is a symptom of the condition. The disease can cause fatigue, weight loss, and frequent infections. An increase in calcium in the blood from the production of these cells causes a person to urinate more often than usual and to be constantly thirsty.


Mutliple myeloma is usually suspected after a normal blood or urine test shows high levels of protein, Lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), calcium, or creatine. A serum protein electrophoresis test is usually completed to measure the levels of monoclonal (M) proteins in the blood. Urine tests will be completed to measure the amount of protein being produced by the cells in the kidneys, and additional blood tests should be performed to detect the levels of beta-2-microglobulin, albumin, and uric acid. Additional x-rays or a bone marrow biopsy will be completed to provide conclusive evidence of the disease and to determine the extent of the cancer throughout the body.

If a diagnosis of myeloma is confirmed there are various treatment options available, but there is no cure for the condition. Various medications are administered in an attempt to kill the cancer cells. Radiation therapy and bone marrow transplantation are also options for those with multiple myeloma. A physician will continue to monitor the person for complications of the disease that can occur as the cancer progresses. Infections, kidney damage, and anemia are common problems that occur as a result of the multiplying cancerous myeloma cells.



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