Multiple myeloma (MM), a malignant tumor of somatically mutated, isotype-switched plasma cells (PC), usually arises from a common benign PC tumor called Monoclonal Gammopathy of Undetermined Significance (MGUS). MM progresses within the bone marrow, and then to an extramedullary stage from which MM cell lines are generated. The incidence of IgH translocations increases with the stage of disease: 50% in MGUS, 60-65% in intramedullarly MM, 70-80% in extramedullary MM, and >90% in MM cell lines. Primary, simple reciprocal IgH translocations, which are present in both MGUS and MM, involve many partners and provide an early immortalizing event. Four chromosomal partners appear to account for the majority of primary IgH translocations: 11q13 (cyclin D1), 6p21 (cyclin D3), 4p16 (FGFR3 and MMSET), and 16q23 (c-maf). They are mediated primarily by errors in IgH switch recombination and less often by errors in somatic hypermutation, with the former dissociating the intronic and 3' enhancer(s), so that potential oncogenes can be dysregulated on each derivative chromosome (e.g., FGFR3 on der14 and MMSET on der4). Secondary translocations, which sometimes do not involve Ig loci, are more complex, and are not mediated by errors in B cell specific DNA modification mechanisms. They involve other chromosomal partners, notably 8q24 (c-myc), and are associated with tumor progression. Consistent with MM being the malignant counterpart of a long-lived PC, oncogenes dysregulated by primary IgH translocations in MM do not appear to confer an anti-apoptotic effect, but instead increase proliferation and/or inhibit differentiation. The fact that so many different primary transforming events give rise to tumors with the same phenotype suggests that there is only a single fate available for the transformed cell.