6 Risk Factors for Leukemia

The Common Risk Factors for Leukemia

Although the causes and risk factors for leukemia are basically unknown, researchers have identified potential risk factors that include some avoidable lifestyle-related behaviors like smoking. Risk factors are things that increase the chances of an individual getting a disease. Some risk factors for leukemia are:

6 Risk Factors for Leukemia


Exposure to certain chemicals such as tobacco has been found to increase the risk of leukemia. While research on lifestyle-related risks is still underway, most scientists agree that smoking can be the only lifestyle risk factor for leukemia.

Recent case-control studies have shown rising trends for all types of leukemia when the amount of tobacco smoked is increased. There have, however, been no detailed biological mechanisms. A causal link has been developed due to the evidence of systematic effects of cigarette smoke and the presence of benzene as well as radioactive substances.

Smoking has been widely linked to cancers of the throat, mouth, larynx, and lungs. All these regions come into direct contact with the body. But now it has been noted that smoking can affect body cells that do not come into direct contact with smoke and other disease-causing substances. The lungs are able to absorb and spread cancer-causing substances in the smoke through the circulatory system to many other parts of the body, and eventually affect cells in those areas. Smoking also shortens complete remission duration and subsequent survival.


Another risk factor for leukemia that we cannot change is gender. This disease is more common in males than females. The reason for this is still unknown.


Leukemia can occur at any age. But, age is also another risk factor for leukemia, and we cannot change this just like gender. All people of are living are growing older each day, and we can do nothing about it. The risk of getting leukemia increases as people age. The possible reasons for this are the reduction of the ability of the body to defend itself and heal worn out tissues.


Exposure to high levels of radiation has been proven to be a risk factor for many types of leukemia, especially child leukemia. People have an increased risk of getting this condition within six to eight years of exposure. A fetus that is exposed to radiation within the first months of development may have an increased risk of childhood leukemia. The extent of this risk is still unclear. The risk of lower levels of exposure to radiation such as CT scans and x-ray tests are also not known. Some research studies have found a slight increase in risk and some others that have not.

Certain Blood Issues

People with certain blood issues have an increased risk of getting this disease. These blood disorders include polycythemia vera, idiopathic myelofibrosis, and essential thrombocythemia. This risk increases further if treatment for a blood issue includes any type of chemotherapy. Patients who develop some of these blood issues have a poor prognosis.

Family History

Although most cases of leukemia are thought to have strong links with other risk factors, having a close relative with this disease increases your risk of getting infected. Siblings with this condition have two to four times more chances of developing leukemia. The overall risk is, however, still low, except among identical twins. If one of them develops leukemia, the other sibling has approximately one out of five chance of getting it as well. If leukemia develops in the first years after birth, this risk is much greater.

While most studies have provided these six as risk factors for leukemia, a few studies do not support some of them. The most appropriate way to ensure you are safe is to lead a healthy lifestyle and avoid exposing yourself to potential risk factors.