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Leukemia Causes, Risk Factors and Prevention

What Causes Leukemia?

While the cause of leukemia is still unknown, scientists think it may be due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

What Are the Risk Factors for Leukemia?

If you have risk factors or experience symptoms that worry you, make an appointment with Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center. Our caring team is here for you.

Factors that may increase your risk of developing leukemia include:

  • Exposure to high levels of radiation or radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Repeated exposure to toxic chemicals, such as benzene (found in gasoline)
  • Smoking
  • Genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome
  • Obesity
  • Philadelphia chromosome genetic abnormality
  • Family history of leukemia
  • Immune-system deficiencies
  • Infection with the human T-cell lymphoma/leukemia virus-1
  • Certain blood disorders, such as myelodysplastic syndrome

A symptom of some types of leukemia and its treatments can be anemia (when your blood doesn't carry enough oxygen to the rest of your body). However, being anemic is not a risk factor for the disease. Learn more about leukemia signs and symptoms.

How Can I Prevent Leukemia?

There is no known way to prevent leukemia, but you may be able to lower your risk by:

  • Not smoking or using tobacco – Learn about how Banner MD Anderson can help you quit
  • Avoiding exposure to pesticides, benzene, formaldehyde and industrial chemicals
  • Maintaining a healthy body weight
  • Avoiding unnecessary medical radiation
  • Testing your home for radon

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