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In this MD Newsline exclusive interview with oncologist Dr. Onyemaechi Okolo, we discuss the high incidence and prevalence of multiple myeloma in the Black community. We also discuss how multiple myeloma presents in Black Americans.

MD Newsline:

Why is multiple myeloma so prevalent in the Black community? 

Dr. Onyemaechi Okolo:

“So, there is a genetic component to the incidence of myeloma. The exact genetic variations leading to increased incidence of myeloma in Black people are still unknown, and research is ongoing. But the data show that the increased rate is also seen on the African continent. So we know very well that there’s a genetic component.¬†Studies also show that the biology of myeloma is different in Black Americans compared to white Americans.

When one group has an increased incidence of a disease, prevalence also tends to be comparatively higher. But in the case of Black Americans, the increased prevalence of myeloma is contributed to by a lack of good treatment options. Treatment options like autologous stem cell transplants, newer therapies, and combination therapies are utilized less often in the African American population than the white American population.

But, we have data that show that when proper treatment is offered, Black Americans tend to have a better prognosis than white Americans with myeloma.”


MD Newsline:

How does multiple myeloma present in Black patients?

Dr. Onyemaechi Okolo:

“Black Americans have an earlier onset of myeloma. They also have an earlier onset of the premalignant condition, MGUS. Although the age of onset is earlier in Black patients, prognosis is better when there’s access to proper care. The symptom profile is similar across all races and ethnic groups: anemia, bone pain due to bone lesions, kidney problems, and things like that.

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So the symptom profile tends to be similar, but the major difference is the age of onset in Black Americans tends to be earlier.”


Responses have been condensed and lightly edited.

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