Myeloma most commonly occurs in people later in their life i.e. over the age of 60. However, some myeloma patients can be younger. Myeloma is slightly more common in men than in women. Myeloma is the second most common type of blood cancer. There are about 4,000 new cases per year in the UK and myeloma represents approximately 1% of all cancers and about 15% of all blood cancers. Blood cancers as a group make up about 20% of all cancers.
In myeloma, the DNA of a plasma cell is damaged causing it to become malignant (cancerous). These abnormal plasma cells are known as myeloma cells.
Generally, the causes of myeloma are not known. Exposure to certain chemicals, radiation, viruses and a weakened immune system are thought to be potential causes or trigger factors. It is possible that myeloma develops when a susceptible individual has been exposed to one or more of these factors.