Environmental Protection

Foundation Study Suggests Link between Toxins and Myeloma

The International Myeloma Foundation (IMF)said newly published data may provide a possible genetic link between environmental toxins and bone disease in multiple myeloma.

Myeloma, also called multiple myeloma, is a cancer of cells in the bone marrow that affect production of blood cells and can damage bone. Once considered a “rare disease of the elderly,” it is increasingly being diagnosed in patients under 45 years old, including some of the early responders to the 9/11 World Trade Center site.

The study from researchers with the IMF gene bank, Bank on a Cure®, identified several changes in DNA sequences called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that are associated with a risk of bone disease in myeloma. Further analyses showed that many of these DNA changes may be involved with the way the human body responds to certain environmental toxins, providing a possible link between myeloma and the environment. The findings were published in a recent issue of the journal Leukemia.

Brian G.M. Durie, M.D., lead author of the study and chair of the IMF said: “This is a hypothesis-generating study. While the functional role of many SNPs is still uncertain, this study is supportive of the notion that genetic factors affecting toxin breakdown may be related to the development of myeloma. This gives us an important starting point for further studies.”

The findings may help explain a widely reported study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, that found more cases of myeloma among younger responders to the 9/11 World Trade Center site than would normally be expected. The findings are also supportive of a study published earlier this year that suggests a link between certain pesticide exposures in agricultural workers and a precursor to multiple myeloma. Previous studies have also shown an increased risk for myeloma among firefighters, and the IMF has issued guidelines for firefighters for the prevention and treatment of this disease.

“Multiple myeloma is not a familiar cancer to patients or even to many doctors, but taken together, these studies say it should not be overlooked,” said Susie Novis, president and co-founder of IMF. “While multiple myeloma cannot be cured, it can be treated with new, targeted therapies including. These studies tell us it is critically important for medical practitioners to know the possible risk factors for myeloma along with the early warning signs so they will be alerted to test for it.”

Myeloma affects an estimated 750,000 people worldwide, and in industrialized countries it is being diagnosed in growing numbers and in increasingly younger people.

The foundation is the oldest and largest myeloma organization, reaching more than 185,000 members in 113 countries worldwide. A 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life of myeloma patients and their families, the IMF focuses on research, education, support, and advocacy.

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