Approximately every 3 minutes, someone in the United States is diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma. This statistic does not include the diagnoses of other blood and bone marrow disorders for which a bone marrow transplant may be a patient’s only hope for survival.

A collective effort

Each year, nearly 13,000 patients will need a bone marrow transplant from a donor outside of their family, which means they will rely on people like you for a chance to beat their disease. Bone marrow and blood stem cell transplants are used to treat a variety of disorders including blood cancers, sickle cell disease, severe aplastic anemia, myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) and certain solid tumors.

The role of heritage

There is an immediate need to register more — and more ethnically diverse — men and women as potential donors. Why the focus on heritage? Well, donors are more likely to match a patient who shares the same ethnic background as them. This is because matching is due to genetic factors, so the more genetic similarity two people share, the more likely they are to match each other. The current ethnic breakdown of the registry is as follows: 

  • 67 percent white
  • 10 percent Hispanic
  • 7 percent African American
  • 7 percent Asian
  • 4 percent mixed race

Based on this make up, it is significantly more difficult for people of Hispanic, African American and Asian heritage to find a matching donor, and the odds only get worse for multiethnic or mixed race patients.

Creating awareness

This lack of diversity on the registry and of available donors in general is due to many factors, the greatest of which is awareness. Myths and misconceptions about bone marrow donation still come to mind when the idea of donation is brought up to many people. Currently, there are two methods of donation, both simple outpatient procedures. The recipient’s condition determines the method used. Bone marrow continuously regenerates throughout our lives, making it even simpler for healthy people who meet the medical requirements for registration to help give a patient in need of a transplant a chance for a healthier life.

How can you help? Many organizations have made it their mission to ensure that every patient in need of an unrelated donor match will be able to find one.