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Doctors don’t know what causes myeloma but a number of things are known to increase the risk of developing it.
Around 4,800 people in the UK are diagnosed with myeloma each year. Doctors don’t know what causes myeloma but a number of things are known to increase the risk of developing it.
The risk of myeloma increases with age. It’s rare in people under 40 and is most commonly diagnosed after the age of 65.
Myeloma is twice as common in African-Caribbean people than in white people.
Myeloma is slightly more common in men than women.
People who have been exposed to high levels of radiation may have a higher risk. This includes people who work in the nuclear power industry.
People who have a close family member with myeloma have a slightly increased risk of developing it.
It has been suggested that people in certain jobs have an increased risk of myeloma, possibly due to exposure to harmful substances. These include jobs in rubber manufacture, farming, painting and decorating, wood-working, hairdressing and the petro-chemical industries.
However, there is very little evidence to support the claim that these occupations carry an increased risk of myeloma.
Myeloma, like other cancers, isn’t infectious and can’t be passed on to other people.
Content last reviewed: 1 February 2013
Next planned review: 2015
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