Can Exposure to Radiation Cause Leukaemia?

Radiation is one of the most common causes of leukaemia. Here is how different kinds of radiations can lead to leukaemia.

Bhadra Kamalasanan
CancerWritten by: Bhadra KamalasananPublished at: Apr 16, 2012
Can Exposure to Radiation Cause Leukaemia?

Can Exposure to Radiation Cause Leukaemia

The harmful effects of radiation on health depend on the type of radiation that one is exposed to and how long or extensively he/she was exposed to the radiation. Nevertheless, exposure to any kind of radiation does cause leukaemia. An average human being is exposed to different sources of radiation everyday such as rays of the sun, microwaves, radio waves, cell phones etc.

Radiation is of two types, namely, non-ionizing and ionizing. The former does not have the ability to cause damage to human cells and can therefore, not cause cancer, but the latter has the ability to cause cell damage. In fact, ionizing radiation has enough energy to break the chemical bonds, damage the DNA in the cells and remove electrons from the atoms. Therefore, exposure to the latter can develop cancer in a person. If a person is exposed to high dose of radiation, his/her body may show changes that can be measured easily.

X-Ray Radiation

Exposing a certain part of the body to x-ray radiation for a prolonged period can lead to skin problems that closely resemble burns and cancer. When the radiation spreads throughout the body, it has the ability to get into the bone marrow and threaten the cells causing damage.

Nuclear Radiation

Leukaemia is the most common effect of being exposed to excessive radiation. Also, it is one of the most common long-term effects of exposure to nuclear radiation. The radiation seeps into the bone marrow and causes DNA damage and hinders cell production, thereby developing leukaemia.


Safety Precautions


  • Ongoing or acute exposure to radiation can cause serious health problems as the energy that gets absorbed through radiation spreads through different parts of the body.  To protect oneself from over exposure to radiation, you may use a protective covering such as an umbrella when going out of home in summer, especially between 12-4pm.
  • If you work near a machine that produces radiation, use protective clothing such as full lab coat, gloves, closed-toe shoes, sunglasses, hats etc.
  • Watch out for caution signs near areas where radioactive materials are stored.
  • Companies must ensure that they accommodate a proper waste management system, which should include the proper disposal of waste products and training the workers to follow proper reporting parameters. The company must offer an evacuation plan to be adhered to at the time of emergency such as a warning signal and introduce it to the workers beforehand.


Read more articles on Understand Leukaemia.