Factors that may increase your risk of developing some types of leukemia include:

  • Previous cancer treatment. People who've had certain types of chemotherapy and radiation therapy for other cancers have an increased risk of developing certain types of leukemia.
  • Genetic disorders. Genetic abnormalities seem to play a role in the development of leukemia. Certain genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome, are associated with increased risk of leukemia.
  • Certain blood disorders. People who have been diagnosed with certain blood disorders, such as myelodysplastic syndromes, may have an increased risk of leukemia.
  • Exposure to high levels of radiation. People exposed to very high levels of radiation, such as survivors of a nuclear reactor accident, have an increased risk of developing leukemia.
  • Exposure to certain chemicals. Exposure to certain chemicals, such as benzene — which is found in gasoline and is used by the chemical industry — also is linked to increased risk of some kinds of leukemia.
  • Smoking. Smoking cigarettes increases the risk of acute myelogenous leukemia.
  • Family history of leukemia. If members of your family have been diagnosed with leukemia, your risk of the disease may be increased.

However, most people with known risk factors don't get leukemia. And many people with leukemia have none of these risk factors.

Oct. 03, 2013

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