How do you get leukaemia?

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Apr 16, 2012

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There are many factors which can make you get leukaemia. It can occur due to chemical factors, genetic factors and even some medical conditions.

Exposure to radiations

If you get exposed to very high levels of radiations, you are likely to develop leukaemia, if these radiations are X-ray radiations or those used during chemotherapy. However, any kind of radiation therapy increases the risk of leukaemia. It causes chromosomal breakage and irreversible breakage of double stranded DNA, thereby resulting in leukaemia.

Chemical exposure

If you are exposed to chemicals such as styrene, butadiene, benzene and formaldehyde for a long period of time, you are at a higher risk of getting leukaemia.

Viral infections

Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and human T-cell lymphoma/leukaemia virus (HTLV-1) have been found responsible for causing leukaemia. EBV and HTLV-1 inhibit the functioning of B lymphocytes and nasopharyngeal cells. This triggers overproduction of white blood cells, resulting in leukaemia. Viral infections also initiate the activity of oncogenes (cancer genes). They cause malignant formation leading to leukaemia.

Medical agents

Some alkylating agents such as Leukeran (chlorambucil) and cytoxan (cyclophosphamide) are known to cause leukaemia. You can get leukaemia if you are under medication for rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases.

Family history

If you have family history of leukaemia, you are prone to get leukaemia. Chromosomal mutation is found to be responsible for the disease occurrence. If either of your parents or any of your siblings has chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, your chances of having the disease increases four times.

Genetic factor

You can get leukaemia as a result of genetic variations. The disease can develop  if you are suffering from any immunodeficiency disease or chromosomal disorder such as Down’s syndrome, Bloom syndrome and Fanconi anaemia.

Lifestyle factor

Your lifestyle has a significant impact on the occurrence of leukaemia. Cigarette smoking and alcohol increases the risk of leukaemia, but it does not necessarily mean that if you smoke you will develop leukaemia for sure.

Immune suppression

Suppression of your immune activity can develop leukaemia. Even leukaemia treatments such as bone marrow transplantation, chemotherapy and radiation can cause immune suppression which further leads to reoccurrence of leukaemia. During kidney transplantation and heart transplantation, immunosuppressive drugs are used. These drugs can cause leukaemia.

There is no specific cause of leukaemia but various factors that trigger the onset of the disease. It is not necessary that if you possess the risk factors, you will develop the disease, but they surely warrant a thorough medical examination.



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