A comparison of CLL and multiple myeloma

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Both multiple myeloma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia are blood cancers that attack white blood cells. However, there are important variations between both cases. These distinctions pertain to the tumors’ symptoms, diagnosis, and therapy, as well as the outlook for people.

Cancers of the white blood cells include multiple myeloma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). The body of a person with CLL creates an excessive amount of aberrant B cells. Multiple myeloma is a cancer that starts in a person’s plasma cells. Antibody-producing B cells are this type of B cell.

Having multiple myeloma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia at the same time is extremely rare, but it does happen.

This post compares the causes, symptoms, diagnoses, and people for various disorders, as well as the outlook for those who suffer from them. It will also cover whether multiple myeloma can progress to CLL and whether it is possible to have both illnesses at the same time.


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Multiple myeloma and CLL are both caused by an overabundance of B cells that grow in the bone marrow’s stem cells. The immune system’s B cells play an important role.

Causes of Multiple Myeloma

A 2021 review found that multiple myeloma is a kind of blood cancer that disrupts the production of plasma cells in the bone marrow. Scientists are still baffled as to what causes this ailment.

Multiple myeloma is caused by genetic mutations, but the exact cause is unknown. Nonetheless, there is some evidence that the following characteristics are risk factors for multiple myeloma:

  • radiation exposure
  • exposure to insecticides or organic solvents
  • obesity
  • alcohol consumption

CLL causes

CLL, another type of blood cancer that starts in the bone marrow, has a hereditary component, according to a 2021 study. It does, however, share some risk factors with multiple myeloma. These are some of the risk factors:

  • radiation exposure
  • tobacco smoking
  • exposure to benzene, although more research is necessary to confirm this


If a person has a parent or sibling who has CLL, their chances of getting it are five to seven times higher. This risk is decreased in people with multiple myeloma. If they have a first-degree family who has the disease, they are four times more likely to have it.

Despite the fact that multiple myeloma appears to run in families, the majority of people who develop the disease have no relatives who have had it.


Because multiple myeloma and CLL are slow-growing tumors, the first symptoms may take a long time to develop.

Both conditions have a lot of symptoms in common.

Overlapping symptoms

Why are the symptoms so similar?

Both multiple myeloma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) start in the bone marrow. They promote excessive B cell growth, which interferes with the function of other, healthy blood cells.

Low blood count and bones

Multiple myeloma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) can also affect the bones. Multiple myeloma, on the other hand, is more likely to induce symptoms like:

  • painful bones
  • weak bones
  • fractures

Multiple myeloma and CLL can cause a low blood count as a result of their effects on the bone marrow, which can lead to:

  • dizziness
  • weakness
  • shortness of breath
  • reduced resistance to infection
  • excessive bleeding

Calcium in the bloodstream

Hypercalcemia, which occurs when too much calcium enters the system, can cause additional symptoms of multiple myeloma and CLL. Hypercalcemia is more common in MM than in CLL, where only a few cases have been described. Hypercalcemia can result in the following symptoms:

  • weakness
  • confusion
  • abdominal pain
  • dehydration
  • extreme thirst
  • kidney problems
  • constipation
  • muscle aches
  • cramping

Kidney damage

Finally, both multiple myeloma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) can induce severe kidney damage in their latter stages. This can result in:

  • shortness of breath
  • weakness
  • itching
  • leg swelling
  • kidney failure
  • electrolyte disturbances


Blood tests and biopsies may be used in the diagnosis of multiple myeloma and CLL.

Diagnosis of multiple myeloma

Doctors can confirm a diagnosis of multiple myeloma if a person meets two criteria, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). To begin, a biopsy must either show that plasma cells make up at least 10% of a person’s bone marrow or that a plasma cell tumor exists. Second, at least one of the following conditions must be achieved:

  • blood tests have revealed high blood calcium, anemia, or an unbalanced concentration of proteins called light chains
  • tests have identified poor kidney function
  • imaging tests have revealed holes in the bones
  • plasma cells make up more than 60% of the bone marrow

CLL diagnosis

The American College of Surgeons also outlines how doctors can diagnose CLL. A range of tests, including blood work and biopsies, can be used to diagnose multiple myeloma. The following are examples of results that indicate the existence of CLL:

  • blood contains too many lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell
  • presence of CLL cells in the bone marrow
  • evidence of CLL-causing genetic mutations, such as chromosomal changes
  • cancer cells in the lymph nodes


Both multiple myeloma and CLL have a variety of therapy options. The specifics will differ from person to person based on the severity of their ailment and their body’s ability to endure potentially aggressive cancer therapies.

Watchful waiting

Treatment may not be essential until the person develops CLL or multiple myeloma symptoms. This strategy is known as “watchful waiting.”

It can take years for a person with multiple myeloma or CLL to develop symptoms.

Stem cell transplant

Multiple myeloma and CLL patients may benefit from a stem cell transplant. After a harsh form of treatment, doctors extract stem cells from a person’s blood and reinject them to help the body recuperate.

Cancerous cells can also be recognized as foreign for stem cells, which causes them to attack them.

Other common treatment options

In terms of treatment, multiple myeloma and CLL are very similar. The following are some therapy possibilities for both conditions:


Many things can influence a person’s outlook in any situation. Some of characteristics, such as a person’s therapy receptivity, will vary substantially. Others, such as the impact of a disorder on a person’s mental health, can be difficult to quantify.

The 5-year relative survival rate is an important and valuable outlook indicator. This metric compares the chances of a person with a specific condition living 5 years after obtaining a diagnosis to someone who does not have the condition.

Multiple myeloma has a 5-year relative survival rate of 54 percent. It’s 87.2 percent for CLL. This, however, can vary depending on the severity and stage of the disease.

Scientists are making substantial medicinal advancements that are improving the prospects for people suffering from these conditions.

Can multiple myeloma turn into CLL?

Significant myeloma and CLL have multiple genetic similarities, according to a 2018 study.

Because of this overlap, some of the genetic mechanisms that generate multiple myeloma can also induce CLL. There is no scientific proof, however, that either condition can become the other.

Is it possible to have both at the same time?

It is possible for someone to have both multiple myeloma and CLL at the same time. Scientists believe this is highly uncommon, with about 0.26 percent of people with multiple myeloma also having CLL.


CLL and multiple myeloma are both cancers of the blood. However, they have differing effects on white blood cells.

CLL and multiple myeloma can share several symptoms due to their similarities. For each, people may undergo similar diagnostic testing, and some treatment options are similar. The outlook for people with these illnesses, as well as the amount to which heredity plays a role in the likelihood of developing them, are significant disparities.


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