Before contracting MM, I suffered two bouts of Lyme Disease. The first time, it took many months for me to finally get a diagnosis from a naturopathic doctor (my medical doctors were clueless). In the meantime, I suffered multiple symptoms, including aches, shooting pains, chronic fatigue, rashes, night sweats, Bell's Palsy, and you name it. I finally got on a lengthy regimen of doxycycline, which eventually brought it under control. I have a lot of opinions about how the medical community deals with (or rather, does not deal with) Lyme disease, but I won't go into that here. For anyone interested, there is an excellent documentary, Under Our Skin, which covers this topic nicely.
Since contracting MM, I have run across several patients who have also suffered from Lyme disease at some point in the past. This naturally makes me wonder if there might be a connection. Could Lyme disease either contribute to or make one more susceptible to Multiple Myeloma? I thought this might be a fruitful area for me to do a little research, but where to start?
It occurred to me that if there is a correlation between Lyme Disease and MM, then those areas that have a high incidence of Lyme Disease (e.g., Connecticut and Massachusetts) might show an elevated incidence of new MM cases compared to other states. I started to look into this, and I identified several states that reported unusually high numbers of Lyme Disease cases. These include Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The national average incidence of Lyme Disease is about 10 cases per 100,000 population per year. However, using state Lyme Disease and population data, I computed an average incidence of a whopping 53 cases per 100,000 for these six states in 2009, more than five times the national average!
I had a little more difficulty coming up with the incidence of MM cases by states. Most of the data I found was many years old, which wouldn't be helpful, since the diagnosis of Lyme Disease has only mushroomed in the past few years. However, I did find one reference for 2011 published by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society which "estimated" the number of MM cases by state for 2011. I'm not sure what went into this "estimate"...I would prefer just the actual data.
In 2011, there were 20,520 newly diagnosed MM cases in the U.S., which works out to an average of about 6.6 cases per 100,000 population. For my chosen six high-Lyme states, the estimated data for 2011 showed an incidence of 7.2 cases per 100,000. Hmmm. Although this is higher than the national average, this isn't exactly a startling discrepancy. I would have to dust off the cobwebs and go back to my college statistics to determine whether this represents a statistically significant difference.
I'm not quite sure where to go with this next. This was just a quick web search, not a detailed analytical effort. In any case, it is a bit of a teaser, so I might keep looking into this further to see if I can unearth anything else.
I obviously have too much free time on my hands.