Researchers have identified several changes in DNA sequences called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that are linked with a risk of bone disease in myeloma.
Myeloma is a cancer of cells in the bone marrow that affect production of blood cells.
Researchers associated with the International Myeloma Foundation (IMF) say that many of these DNA changes may be involved with the way the human body responds to certain environmental toxins, providing a possible link between myeloma and the environment.
Dr. Brian G.M. Durie, Chairman of the IMF, said: "This is a hypothesis-generating study. While the functional role of many SNPs is still uncertain, this study is supportive of the notion that genetic factors affecting toxin breakdown may be related to the development of myeloma. This gives us an important starting point for further studies."
The researchers say that their findings may help explain a study reported this week in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, which found more cases of myeloma among younger responders to the 9/11 World Trade Center site than would normally be expected.
The findings are also supportive of a study published earlier this year that suggests a link between certain pesticide exposures in agricultural workers and a precursor to multiple myeloma.
Studies conducted in the past have also shown an increased risk for myeloma among firefighters, and the IMF has issued guidelines for firefighters for the prevention and treatment of this disease.
"Multiple myeloma is not a familiar cancer to patients or even to many doctors, but taken together, these studies say it should not be overlooked," said Susie Novis, President and Co-founder of the IMF.
"While multiple myeloma cannot be cured, it can be treated with new, targeted therapies including REVLIMID, VELCADE and THALOMID. These studies tell us it is critically important for medical practitioners to know the possible risk factors for myeloma along with the early warning signs so they will be alerted to test for it," Novis said.
The current study has been published in the latest issue of the journal Leukemia.