Leukemia Risk Factors
Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)
 
 
  • Childhood ALL
    Possible risk factors include the following:
    • Having a brother or sister with leukemia
    • Caucasian or Hispanic descent
    • Exposure to X-rays before birth
    • Exposure to radiation
    • Past treatment with chemotherapy or other drugs that weaken the immune system. Certain types of chemotherapeutic drugs are known to be carcinogens (cause cancer) or leukemogens (cause leukemia) in their own right
    • Certain genetic disorders, such as Down's syndrome
  • Adult ALL
    Possible risk factors include the following:
    • Male gender
    • Caucasian descent
    • Older than 70 years of age
    • Past treatment with chemotherapy or radiation therapy. This is because certain chemotherapy drugs, particularly those known as alkylating agents, and ionizing radiation, while successfully treating a cancer initially, may produce a secondary malignancy such as leukemia
    • Treatment with Thorotrast (a commonly used contrast medium for diagnostic X-rays from the 1930s through the 1950s). Leukemia risk in patients exposed to just one injection of Thorotrast is over 20 times that of the normal population
    • Exposure to atomic bomb radiation or other ionizing radiation sources, e.g., workplace or other environmental contamination
    • Having certain genetic disorders such as Down's syndrome
People who think they may be at risk should discuss this with their doctor.
 
Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL)
Risk factors for CLL include the following:
 
  • Being middle-aged or older (average age of diagnosis is 65-70)
  • Male gender
  • Caucasian
  • A family history of CLL or cancer of the lymph system
  • Having relatives who are Russian Jews or Eastern European Jews
  • Exposure to the herbicide Agent Orange
 
People who think they may be at risk should discuss this with their doctor.
 
Hairy Cell Leukemia
 
  • The cause of hairy cell leukemia is unknown. It occurs more often in older men.
 
About Adult T Cell Leukemia/Lymphoma (ATLL)
Exposure to the HTLV-1 virus. The virus is more prevalent in Japan, the Caribbean, some parts of Central and South America, and the southeastern United States. Infection may result from:
 
  • Transfusions of blood or blood products
  • Intravenous drug use (sharing needles)
  • Sexual transmission (unprotected sex, particularly with multiple partners)
 
Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)
 
  • Childhood AML
    The risk factors for developing childhood AML, childhood chronic myelogenous leukemia, JMML, TMD, and myelodysplastic syndrome are similar. Possible risk factors include:
    • Having a brother or sister, especially a twin, with leukemia. Because these disorders often involve chromosome translocations, the same mutation may occur in genetically identical or similar individuals
    • Hispanic descent
    • Exposure to cigarette smoke or alcohol before birth. Cigarettes are known to contain benzene and other potent leukemogens
    • History of myelodysplastic syndrome (also called preleukemia) or aplastic anemia
    • Previous chemotherapy or radiation therapy
    • Exposure to ionizing radiation or chemicals such as benzene
    • Certain genetic disorders such as Down's syndrome, Fanconi anemia, neurofibromatosis type 1 or the congenital genetic condition Noonan's syndrome
  • Adult AML
    • Possible risk factors for adult acute myeloid leukemia include the following:
    • Male gender
    • Smoking, especially after age 60
    • Previous chemotherapy or radiation therapy
    • Previous treatment for childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). This treatment is likely to have included alkylating agents, which are themselves leukemogenic, and may thus cause secondary malignancies
    • Exposure to atomic bomb radiation or the chemical benzene
    • History of a blood disorder such as myelodysplastic syndrome
 
People who think they may be at risk should discuss this with their doctor.
 
 
Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML)
 
Researchers are not sure of the cause of CML, although there has been some correlation with exposure to ionizing radiation