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More research needed to understand Australia myeloma burden

The rate of myeloma in Australia is increasing due to an ageing population, according to the results of a new study.

Myeloma, also known as multiple myeloma, is a cancer of the plasma cells. Plasma cells are a type of white blood cell that help fight infection.

As myeloma cells multiply, they crowd the bone marrow and prevent it from making normal numbers of red cells, white cells and platelets.

Analysis by researchers at the University of Washington showed Australasia had the highest rate of myeloma (5.8 cases per 100,000 people) out of 21 world regions.

Our National Myeloma Co-ordinator, Jo Beams, says there is no reason for alarm but the research highlights the need for greater awareness and more research on risk factors.

“The research in recent years has actually shown myeloma is much more complex than we thought,” Ms Beams said.

“The key with myeloma outcomes is being diagnosed before it causes organ damage, in particular to the bones and kidneys.

“Obviously better treatments are going to translate into better outcomes for people.

“In the last three decades, myeloma’s had one of largest absolute increases in survival rates. That is really thanks to the better treatments that we’ve had been made available.”

The research, which showed the global incidence of myeloma had risen significantly during the past two decades, was published in the JAMA Oncology journal.

May is Myeloma Awareness Month in Australia. The Leukaemia Foundation is running special events across the country about the what, how, when and why of the disease. Click here to see our full list of events and RSVP.