Myeloma risk

Preventable cases

Myeloma cases are preventable, UK, 2015


Caused by obesity

Myeloma cancer cases caused by overweight and obesity, UK, 2015

The estimated lifetime risk of being diagnosed with myeloma is 1 in 130 (1%) for females, and 1 in 95 (1%) for males born in 1961 in the UK. [1]

These figures have been calculated on the assumption that the possibility of having more than one diagnosis of myeloma over the course of a lifetime is very low ('Current Probability' method).[2]


  1. Lifetime risk estimates calculated by the Cancer Intelligence Team at Cancer Research UK 2023.
  2. Estève J, Benhamou E, Raymond L. Statistical methods in cancer research. Volume IV. Descriptive epidemiology. IARC Sci Publ. 1994;(128):1-302.

About this data

Data is for UK, past and projected cancer incidence and mortality and all-cause mortality rates for those born in 1961, ICD-10 C15.

Calculated by the Cancer Intelligence Team at Cancer Research UK, 2023 (as yet unpublished). Lifetime risk of being diagnosed with cancer for people in the UK born in 1961. Based on method from Esteve et al. 1994 [2], using projected cancer incidence (using data up to 2018) calculated by the Cancer Intelligence Team at Cancer Research UK and projected all-cause mortality (using data up to 2020, with adjustment for COVID impact) calculated by Office for National Statistics. Differences from previous analyses are attributable mainly toslowing pace of improvement in life expectancy, and also to slowing/stabilising increases in cancer incidence.

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14% of myeloma cases in the UK are preventable.[1]

Myeloma is associated with a number of risk factors.[2-4]

Myeloma Risk Factors

Increases risk ('sufficient' or 'convincing' evidence) May increase risk ('limited' or 'probable' evidence) Decreases risk ('sufficient' or 'convincing' evidence) May decrease risk ('limited' or 'probable' evidence)
  • -Body fatness
  • Benzene
  • Ethylene oxide
  • X-radiation, gamma radiation
- -

International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classification. World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research (WCRF/AICR) classification does not include myeloma because the evidence is very limited. Find out more about IARC and WCRF/AICR classifications.

See also

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Find out more about the definitions and evidence for this data

Learn how attributable risk is calculated


  1. Brown KF, Rumgay H, Dunlop C, et al. The fraction of cancer attributable to known risk factors in England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the UK overall in 2015. British Journal of Cancer 2018.
  2. International Agency for Research on Cancer. List of Classifications by cancer sites with sufficient or limited evidence in humans, Volumes 1 to 122. Accessed October 2018.
  3. Lauby-Secretan B, Scoccianti C, Loomis D, et al. Body Fatness and Cancer--Viewpoint of the IARC Working Group. N Engl J Med. 2016 Aug 25;375(8):794-8.
  4. World Cancer Research Fund / American Institute for Cancer Research. Continuous Update Project Findings & Reports. Accessed October 2018.
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International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies the role of this risk factor in cancer development.[1] 14% of myeloma cases in the UK are caused by overweight and obesity.[2]

Myeloma risk is 12% higher per 5-unit body mass index (BMI) increment, an umbrella study of meta-analyses showed.[3] Myeloma risk increases in males and females for both overweight and obesity categories, a meta-analysis showed [4].  

Obese people may produce more of the protein interleukin-6 (IL-6), affecting proliferation and development of normal and malignant plasma cells.[5]

UK portrait version shown here. Country versions, cancers caused by other risk factors, and landscape formats are available for free from our cancer risk publications.

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Myeloma risk is 2.3 times higher in people with a first-degree relative (parent, sibling or child) with myeloma compared with the general population, a cohort study showed.[1]

This may be due to shared genetic or environmental factors , or a combination of these.

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Pernicious anemia

Myeloma risk is 50% higher in people with pernicious anaemia, versus those without the disease, a systematic review showed.[1] Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) - a precursor for myeloma risk is 67% higher in people with pernicious anaemia.[1]

Last reviewed:

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