In most cases of myeloma there may be no known risk factors and the cause of myeloma remains unknown. However, there are a number of factors that appear to be linked with the disease. These features, alone or together, may contribute to the development of myeloma.


The risk of multiple myeloma increases with age; the average age being between 45 – 70 years. An aging immune system that allows new cancer cells to become established is one causal theory of myeloma. Healthy immune systems remove damaged or cancerous cells daily. Or, perhaps a lifelong accumulation of toxins contributes to damage of immune system genes.


Men are slightly more likely to develop myeloma than women.


Multiple myeloma is almost twice as common among African Americans and less frequent in Asian people suggesting there may be a genetic factor.

Environmental Chemicals

Exposure to herbicides, insecticides, petroleum products, benzene, heavy metals, plastics, and dusts including asbestos appear to be increased risk factors for the disease. Occupations with a higher chance of developing myeloma are: agricultural workers; petroleum workers; pulp and paper employees; cosmetologists; leather industry; and firefighters. The longer the exposure is the greater the risk. A group of 9/11 responders have myeloma, at an unusually young age, and doctors suspect the disease was triggered by an unprecedented "synergistic mix" of toxins at the World Trade Center site.


Several viruses including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis viruses, human herpes virus 8 (HHV-8), and others appear to have an association with myeloma.


Individuals exposed to large amounts of radiation, including atomic bomb radiation, have an increased risk for myeloma.

Family History

While it is not considered a major risk factor, someone with a sibling or parent with myeloma may be at increased risk for developing myeloma or other blood cancers.