How do you get leukaemia?
You can get leukaemia when certain factors trigger abnormal production of white blood cells. These factors could be genetic or chemical.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Source: Onlymyhealth editorial team Apr 16, 2012
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