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Several things are capable of causing myeloma or triggering an already abnormal or damaged pre-myeloma cell population in the bone marrow. Several types of things can cause or trigger myeloma: exposure to toxic chemicals, atomic radiation, anything suppressing or interfering with the immune system, or infection with cancer-causing viruses. Toxic chemicals which have been identified include benzene, dioxins (such as dioxins in Agent Orange), and a whole range of agricultural chemicals, solvents, fuels, engine exhausts, and cleaning materials. Serious radiation exposure is rather uncommon, but has occurred in Japan at atomic test and reactor sites, as well as manufacture facilities. Several viruses have been identified, including HIV (AIDS virus), hepatitis viruses, and several herpes viruses. Some retroviruses, such as SV40 (Simian Virus 40), a contaminant in polio vaccine preparations, have also been implicated in the pathogenesis of myeloma.

There is some family tendency for myeloma: approximately 3%–5% of myeloma diagnoses occur in a family member who has a close relative previously diagnosed with MGUS or myeloma. Potential screening/early testing can be discussed with your physician if you have a family member with myeloma or MGUS.

This information was taken from the 2015 IMF Patient Handbook, part of the free IMF Info Pack. To order your copy, click here. If you have questions about the information on this page, or about any aspect of myeloma, call the IMF Hotline at (800) 452-CURE.

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