Risk Factors

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These are some risk factors for a few forms of leukemia and myelodysplastic syndrome.

Adult Acute Lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)

Possible risk factors for ALL include the following:

  • Being male
  • Being white
  • Being older than 70
  • Past treatment with chemotherapy or radiation therapy
  • Exposure to atomic bomb radiation
  • Having a certain genetic disorder such as Down syndrome

Adult Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)

Possible risk factors for AML include the following:

  • Being male
  • Smoking, especially after age 60
  • Having had treatment with chemotherapy or radiation therapy in the past
  • Having had treatment for childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in the past
  • Being exposed to atomic bomb radiation or the chemical benzene
  • Having a history of a blood disorder such as myelodysplastic syndrome

Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL)

Risk factors for CLL include the following:

  • Being middle-aged or older, male, or white
  • A family history of CLL or cancer of the lymph system
  • Having relatives who are Russian Jews or Eastern European Jews

Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML)

Most people with CML have a gene mutation (change) called the Philadelphia chromosome. Every cell in the body contains DNA (genetic material) that determines how the cell looks and acts. DNA is contained inside chromosomes. In CML, part of the DNA from one chromosome moves to another chromosome. This change is called the “Philadelphia chromosome.” It results in the bone marrow making an enzyme, called tyrosine kinase, that causes too many stem cells to develop into white blood cells (granulocytes or blasts). The Philadelphia chromosome is not passed from parent to child.

Myelodysplastic Syndrome

Risk factors include the following:

  • Being older than 60 years
  • Past treatment with chemotherapy or radiation therapy
  • Being exposed to certain chemicals, including tobacco smoke, pesticides, and solvents such as benzene
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