Causes of Leukemia

The exact causes of leukemia are not known. Leukemia is one of the few kinds of cancers that are prevalent in children and it is suspected that there could be genetic or developmental causes behind the cancer. However, the causes of leukemia in children are also not clearly understood.

Here are some of the factors which may increase the risk of developing leukemia.

  • Those who are exposed to high levels of radiation can develop leukemia at a very tender age. They are most likely to get CML, AML or ALL. Those who had experienced the radiations after the atomic bomb explosion in Japan became prone to developing leukemia. There are some people who feel that experiencing small amounts of radiation through x rays and MRIs may also add to the risk of developing leukemia. However, there is no clear consensus on the claim.
  • There is a slightly increased risk of developing AML in those who smoke a lot.
  • Professional hazards such as exposure to chemicals such as benzene can also increase the risk of developing AML and ALL. Benzene is also found in cigarettes and therefore the exposure could increase for those who smoke regularly as well.
  • Though it is ironic, it is possible that chemotherapy – a treatment for cancer, may also cause increased risk of developing leukemia. Though this is a small incidence, patients may have increased risk of developing leukemia due to the alkylating agents in the chemotherapy medications.
  • Developmental diseases and Down syndrome can increase the risk of developing leukemia as the child grows.
  • A disease known as Myelodysplastic syndrome can also increase the risk of developing blood disorders such as acute myeloid leukemia.
  • People who have human T-cell leukemia virus type I may develop a rare diseases known as the adult T cell leukemia, which is contagious. This could also cause other kinds of non-contagious leukemia. However, this is very rare.
  • There are some genetic connections of leukemia as well. Though it is rare, sometimes it is possible that more than one person in the family develops leukemia. When this occurs, the offspring are more prone to developing the disease themselves. Yet, research has shown that this is a very rare connection and only a few such cases have been reported.