- Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) is a blood condition that can occur before a type of cancer found in plasma cells called myeloma.
- Some modifiable risk factors may have an association with MGUS, but more research is needed to determine their significance.
- Experts argue people living with obesity shouldn’t be too concerned about the risk of MGUS and that other potential health complications of obesity are more urgent.
Smoking, poor sleep, and obesity may increase the risk for a blood condition that precedes a particular type of cancer, but experts say more research is needed.
Research published in the journal Blood Advances reports that some modifiable risk factors such as smoking and obesity may raise the risk of monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS), a condition that can occur before a type of blood cancer known as multiple myeloma develops.
“While significant advancements have been made in therapeutics for multiple myeloma, it remains an incurable disease, often diagnosed after patients have already experienced end-organ damage,” Dr. David Lee, a co-author of the study and an internal medicine resident at Massachusetts General Hospital, said in a press release.
“It’s preceded by premalignant conditions including MGUS. Our research group is focused on investigating risk factors and etiology of MGUS to better understand who may be at increased risk for developing MGUS and its progression to multiple myeloma,” he added.
MGUS is a condition in which the blood contains higher than normal levels of a protein known as M protein.
In the majority of cases, MGUS is not problematic. The risk of a person progressing from MGUS to myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells, is 1% per year.
In myeloma, a type of white blood cell found in the bone marrow builds up, creating tumors throughout the bones in the body.
The most significant
The disease is more common in men and is twice as common in Black people than in white people.
Being overweight or having obesity is also a known risk factor for myeloma.
“There’s a well known relationship between MGUS and myeloma and obesity. This is something that has been known for some time. There’s been a link between obesity and an increased risk of individuals being found to have MGUS, smoldering myeloma or active myeloma,” Dr. Brian Durie, the chief scientific officer of the International Myeloma Foundation and a hematologist and oncologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles who was not involved in the study, told Medical News Today.
“There’s also a correlation between obesity and a lot of other things, other kinds of cancer, other kind of things that may be going on with your immune system,” he added.
In the new study, the researchers suggest that being obese is associated with a 73% greater chance of having MGUS, when compared with individuals who don’t have obesity. However, while the researchers note a possible connection between obesity and MGUS, they note there is not enough evidence to prove causation.
“MGUS is a fairly common thing.
“A lot of people have looked for the last seven or 10 years on the influence of obesity and progression of MGUS and there has been some scientifically plausible explanations involving a
The study authors argue their research will help guide further studies into the role of modifiable risk factors and cancer risk.
“Before we can develop effective preventative health strategies to lower the risk of serious diseases like multiple myeloma, we first need to better understand the relationship between MGUS and potentially modifiable risk factors like obesity,” Lee said.
Durie argues there is not yet enough data to support the idea that making lifestyle changes in response to modifiable risk factors will make a difference to MGUS or to myeloma outcomes. But he notes some data from animal studies suggest it is an area worth investigating in the future.
“Having a modifiable risk factor is terribly important. You could have people make effort to reduce their obesity and there are data indicating that that could improve the outcomes. So this is in the big scheme of things. It’s quite important at the patient level, because it’s something that you could do about it,” he said.
Both Durie and Schiller emphasize that those living with obesity and other risk factors examined in the study should not be overly concerned about their risk for developing MGUS and, in turn, myeloma.
“Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance is not a disease and not everybody with monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance will ever have evolution to myeloma. As a matter of fact, we estimate that the risk of progression is about 1 percent per year. The vast majority of patients with MGUS will never live to develop myeloma. They are elderly and they’ll die of an unrelated cause,” Durie said.
Schiller argues that for people living with obesity, there are other more urgent potential health risks that need to be addressed.
“I’m not sure that MGUS is a disease entity in search of prevention,” he said. “I think there’s so many other things that obesity is associated with that are disease states that are truly immediately life threatening, like hypertension, and diabetes, hyperlipidemia and consequent stroke and heart attack. I think that those abnormalities, those diseases really present a much more urgent need to prevent than MGUS.”