Leukemia is a type of blood cancer in which abnormal (usually white) blood cells are formed. Leukemia, can be classified as either acute (the diseases progresses rapidly) or chronic (the diseases progresses slowly) based on the rate at which the disease progresses. The four major types of leukemia are:
- Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL).
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).
- Acute myelocytic leukemia (AML).
- Chronic myelocytic leukemia (CML).
The factors that cause leukemia are not known, but several factors that may increase the risk of developing some types of leukemia are:
- Previous chemotherapy or radiotherapy: If you have been treated for any type of cancer with chemotherapy and radiation therapy earlier, you are at a risk of developing certain types of leukemia.
- Genetic diseases: Certain chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome or genetic abnormality such as Fanconi syndrome are associated with increased risk of certain leukemia.
- Certain blood disorders: Certain blood disorders such as myelodysplastic syndromes may increase the risk of developing leukemia.
- Exposure to radiation: The risk of certain leukemia is increased in people with exposure to very high levels of radiation (such as survivors of a nuclear reactor accident)
- Exposure to certain chemicals: People exposed to certain chemicals such as benzene, which is found in gasoline and is used by the chemical industry, are at a higher risk of developing some kind of leukemia compared with those who are not close to the chemical.
- Smoking: According to some studies, smoking cigarettes increases the risk of acute myelogenous leukemia.
- Family history of leukemia: People with a family history of leukemia are at a higher risk of developing leukemia.
If you have these risk factors, it does not necessarily mean that you will get the disease or everyone who gets the disease has these risk factors. Many of these factors cannot be changed or prevented, but certain factors that can decrease your risk of getting the disease include:
- Quit smoking: Quitting smoking not only decreases the risk of lung cancer but also acute myelogenous leukemia. According to studies, about 1 in every 4 cases of AML is associated with smoking.
- Avoid exposure to benzene: Limit your occupational exposure to benzene. It is a chemical by product of coal and petroleum.