What Causes Acute Myeloid Leukemia?

Doctors do not know exactly what causes acute myeloid leukemia. However, research has shown that people with certain risk factors are more likely than others to develop this condition. These possible risk factors include being male, having a brother or sister with leukemia, and being exposed to cigarette smoke or alcohol before birth.

An Overview of Acute Myeloid Leukemia Causes

The cause of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is currently unknown, and doctors can seldom explain why one person will get acute myeloid leukemia and another person will not. However, leukemia research has shown that people with certain risk factors are more likely than others to develop the condition. A risk factor is anything that increases a person's chance of developing a disease.
 
Risk factors for childhood acute myeloid leukemia include:
 
  • Having a brother or sister, especially a twin, with leukemia
  • Being Hispanic
  • Being exposed to cigarette smoke or alcohol before birth
  • Past treatment with chemotherapy or radiation therapy
  • Being exposed to ionizing radiation or chemicals such as benzene
  • Having certain genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome
  • Having a history of myelodysplastic syndrome (also called pre-leukemia) or aplastic anemia.
 
Risk factors for adult acute myeloid leukemia include:
 
  • Being male
  • Smoking, especially after age 60
  • Having had treatment with chemotherapy or radiation therapy in the past
  • Having had treatment for childhood acute lymphocytic 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.
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AML Leukemia

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