Medically Reviewed by Carmelita Swiner, MD on May 10, 2022
How is Having Multiple Myeloma Different For Black and Hispanic People?

How is Having Multiple Myeloma Different For Black and Hispanic People?

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Multiple myeloma is a rare form of cancer that affects your blood. There are significant racial disparities, however, in the frequency, biology, and treatment of this disease. 

Some of these issues are due to actual differences in the way that this cancer behaves. Other problems reveal how systemic racism pollutes our current healthcare system. 

Read on to discover 10 ways that your race can change your experience with multiple myeloma. 

1. Black People Are More Likely to Get Multiple Myeloma

1. Black People Are More Likely to Get Multiple Myeloma

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Like many other cancers, multiple myeloma is more likely to affect Black people than white people from similar regions. In this case, it’s two to three times more common in Black populations. 

Studies have shown that this is true in Africa as well as the U.S. This indicates that part of the prevalence is linked to heritable traits.

2. Black People Get Multiple Myeloma at a Younger Age

2. Black People Get Multiple Myeloma at a Younger Age

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For unknown reasons, the condition often manifests at younger ages in black populations than in white populations. 

More research is needed to know if this is also true for Hispanic populations. 

3. A Pre-Myeloma Condition Is More Common in Black People

3. A Pre-Myeloma Condition Is More Common in Black People

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A symptomless condition that leads to myeloma — called monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) — occurs more common in Black people. 

If medical facilities screened for this preliminary condition in minority populations more often, they could increase its detection rate. Right now, though, this isn’t a common practice.  

4. Multiple Myeloma May Be Less Severe in Black People

4. Multiple Myeloma May Be Less Severe in Black People

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Fortunately, studies indicate that multiple myelomas that develop in black people are less aggressive versions of the disease. 

More research is needed to figure out why this is the case and if the same is true for Hispanic populations. 

5. Black People Have a Better Prognosis

5. Black People Have a Better Prognosis

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On average, black people who are diagnosed with this condition will live longer than white people from similar areas. 

One study found that black people who are younger than 65 live an average of 7.1 years before dying from their cancer. White people in the same age range only survive for an average of 5.8 years following diagnosis.  

6. Black People Have Higher Mortality Rates

6. Black People Have Higher Mortality Rates

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Minorities with this condition have a greater risk of dying than other demographics despite their better-than-average prognosis, seemingly due to a lack of sufficient medical treatment.   

7. Black and Hispanic People Lack Access to Treatments

7. Black and Hispanic People Lack Access to Treatments

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Black and Hispanic people are much less likely to have access to new and cutting edge treatments than white people. 

8. Black and Hispanic People Lack Knowledge of Treatments

8. Black and Hispanic People Lack Knowledge of Treatments

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Even when new treatments are available nearby, black and Hispanic people tend to be under-informed about their options. 

This is most likely due to direct instances of discrimination — where a medical provider neglected to provide the information because of assumptions they made about their minority patient. 

An example is a doctor assuming that their minority patient can’t pay for an expensive new treatment that’s not yet covered by insurance. 

9. Black and Hispanic People Face Longer Treatment Delays

9. Black and Hispanic People Face Longer Treatment Delays

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Even when black and Hispanic people are signed up for the right treatments, they experience much longer delays than white people. 

As a minority, you may have to wait dangerous amounts of time before getting life-saving treatments — like bone marrow and stem cell transplants. 

10. Clinical Trials Need More Black and Hispanic People

10. Clinical Trials Need More Black and Hispanic People

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One of the greater disparities with multiple myeloma is how few racial minorities are present in the clinical trials. 

About 20% of multiple myeloma patients are black, but black people are only 6% of the participants in clinical trials. This means that drug trials could easily miss treatments that would help Black people affected by this condition.