When I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, it was presumed that my cancer was the result of exposure to Agent Orange, a component of which was dioxin. Yet many cases of Multiple Myeloma have developed where there is no connection to herbicides. There are assumptions that insecticides and other chemical compounds can produce the illness, but there really is no identified source. In spite of a great deal of research, no smoking gun has yet been found. What is known is that the cancer is manifested when DNA is altered by some unidentified catalyst. In military veteran cases, certain assumptions are made but have not reached a point of presumption, as with Agent Orange. The word “presumption” is used because the American government denies the causality on the basis that a specific trigger cannot be identified. The presumptive categorization is the result of decades of court cases which did a reasonable job of correlating Agent Orange exposure with the presentation of Multiple Myeloma.
There are a few different vectors that appear to be sensibly correlated to the appearance of the DNA damage that results in cancers in general as well as Multiple Myeloma in particular. Again in military realms, the possibility exists that exposure to the depleted uranium used as projectiles might be a trigger. Indeed, the possibility exists that the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the hundreds of tests performed by a variety of nations is also suspect. Bone diseases are a primary side effect of radiation exposure due to the mutation of DNA and bone marrows role in our blood. The incidence of Multiple Myeloma grew considerably in the decades following the testing, and experts cannot rule out long term repetitive exposure resulting from worldwide fallout as a cause of genetic mutation, although governments tend to dismiss the possibility on the basis of half life and exposure level. They may be right, considering that fallout is likely the least of the pollutants with which humankind has been exposed to in the past and continues to be exposed to today. Ground water pollution remains one of the most widely decried side effects of chemical use, and new contaminations are regularly found. The use of chemicals in the extraction of natural gas in a process called fracking is under fire as a major cause of spreading toxicity as an example.
Many victims of Multiple Myeloma relate concerns of their exposure to herbicides, insecticides and chemical contaminants like benzene, just as veterans express their concerns about Agent Orange. But whether the cancer is the result of exposure to these things, exposure to gamma rays from space, or a natural tendency for DNA to degrade is all up for grabs because all thoughts of causation are based on exposures coincidental to the appearance of the cancer.
It’s fact that the cause of the genetic mutations is a highly sought prize. Once it’s known what causes Multiple Myeloma, then it will become patently more simple to combat it in addition to reducing its development in people. It’s highly doubtful that a cure will be developed without knowing what affects what and how our genes are modified by that process. In spite of the relative improvements in Multiple Myeloma treatment, the cancer remains deadly, with a third of its victims perishing within five years of a stage three diagnosis. The good news is that two thirds are helped by existing therapies and can survive well past the five year mark. Indeed, some people with Multiple Myeloma will die of old age before the opportunity arises to die from the cancer.
A sad fact is that the treatments for Multiple Myeloma may be the cause of secondary cancers which appear some years after the initiation of treatment. A common warning to patients receiving radiation for pain relief or the destruction of tumors/lesions in the bones is that a secondary cancer might result. The warnings persist because while a radiation induced secondary cancer is not common, neither is it unusual. As well, the toxic effects on cells from chemotherapy can be causal to the appearance of a new and different cancer, as well as being linked to the acceleration of the originally diagnosed Multiple Myeloma. Treatment does, in fact, result in a faster progression and metastasis.
While there are inferences as to the paths of causality for Multiple Myeloma, true cause remains elusive and forms a kind of holy grail for Multiple Myeloma research. But the most commonly held belief is that the cancer is the result of introduction of man made pollutants to the human living environment.