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What is myeloma?

Myeloma is a cancer that begins in the blood’s plasma cells. It develops from cells in the bone marrow called plasma cells, which are part of the immune system and help fight infection. When cancerous, these abnormal plasma cells spread throughout the bone marrow so that there is not enough space to make enough normal blood cells.

Myeloma is often called multiple myeloma because most people (90 per cent) have multiple bone lesions at the time it is diagnosed.

Myeloma is not a common disease. About 1,750 people in Australia are diagnosed with the disease each year. It accounts for 15 per cent of blood cancers and one per cent of all cancers generally. The disease is more often found in people over 60, which is partly explained by the ageing population. It is rare in people under 40. Myeloma is slightly more common in men than in women.

This information is reviewed by

This information was written and last reviewed in September 2020 by Cancer Council SA's experienced information team with support from national Cancer Council publications.