Leukemia: Risk Factors

Certain risk factors have been linked to leukemia. However, it is important to note that most people with these risk factors don’t contract the disease.

  • Previous cancer treatment. After receiving chemotherapy and radiation therapy for other cancers, patients have a higher risk of developing certain types of leukemia.
  • Specific blood disorders. Individuals diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (damage to blood forming cells in the marrow) may have an increased risk of developing leukemia.
  • High levels of radiation. Radiation exposure, such as the kind occuring during nuclear reactor malfunctions, has been linked with leukemia.
  • Exposure to benzene. This chemical, found in gasoline and used by the chemical industry, is associated with a higher risk of leukemia.
  • Smoking. The use of cigarettes increases the risk of acute myeloid leukemia.
  • Family history. If other family members have had leukemia, an individual has a greater risk of developing the disease.