Examining the Link Between Obesity and Multiple Myeloma

Earlier this year, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine linked obesity with 13 cancers, including multiple myeloma (MM). A subsequent study, published in the Journal of National Cancer Institute, found that obesity is associated with an increased risk of monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) – a precancerous blood disorder that can progress to MM.

Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, analyzed data from a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs database, identifying 7,878 patients who were diagnosed with MGUS between October 1999 and December 2009.

Among them, 39.8 percent were overweight (body mass index [BMI] = 25.0-29.9) and 33.8 percent were obese (BMI=30.0-39.9). The percentage of overweight and obese patients who developed MM was higher compared with those at a normal weight (BMI=18.5-24.9; p value not provided):

  • 6% of overweight patients (after a median of 5.75 years)
  • 3% of obese patients (after a median of 5.9 years)
  • 5% of people at normal weight (after a median of 5.2 years)

“Based on our finding that being overweight or obese is a risk factor for MM in MGUS patients, and since extra weight is a modifiable risk factor, we hope that our results will encourage intervention strategies to prevent the progression of this condition to MM as soon as MGUS is diagnosed,” said Su-Hsin Chang, PhD, assistant professor of surgery in the Division of Public Health Science at Washington University and first author of this study.

Source: Chang SH, Luo S, Thomas TS, et al. Obesity and the transformation of monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance to multiple myeloma: A population-based cohort study. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2016 November 18. [Epub ahead of print]

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