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The term ‘monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance’ denotes the presence of a monoclonal protein in patients without evidence of multiple myeloma, macroglobulinemia, amyloidosis or related plasma cell proliferative disorders. The disorder has been found in approximately 3% of persons older than 70 years and in approximately 1% of persons older than 50 years. A population-based study included 1384 patients from south-eastern Minnesota who had the disorder diagnosed at the Mayo Clinic from 1960 through 1994. Risk of progression was about 1% per year, but patients were at risk of progression even after 25 years or more of stable monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance. The risk for development of multiple myeloma was increased 25-fold; the risk of macroglobulinemia, 46-fold; and the risk of primary amyloidosis, 8.4-fold. Concentration and type of monoclonal protein were the only independent predictors of progression. The presence of a urine monoclonal protein and the reduction of one or more uninvolved immunoglobulins were not risk factors for progression. Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance may be associated with various disorders, including lymphoproliferative diseases, leukemia, von Willebrand disease, connective tissue diseases and neurologic disorders.