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What causes leukaemia?

Doctors are not sure what causes leukaemia. It is likely that abnormal genes play a part. One type of leukaemia, chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML), is often caused by an abnormal chromosome.It is also likely that a person's chances of getting leukaemia are affected by where they live, where they work, what they eat and more.

In acute lymphoblastic; leukaemia (ALL), it's thought that the response of the immune system to certain infections may affect development in some people.

Risk factors for leukaemia

While the exact causes of leukaemia are unclear, some things are known to increase the risk of developing leukaemia. These are called 'risk factors' and include:

  • smoking tobacco
  • exposure to high levels of radiation, for example from an atomic bomb
  • exposure to certain chemicals, for example benzene
  • previous cancer treatment with chemotherapy or radiotherapy
  • having certain genetic disorders, for example Down syndrome
  • certain viral infections, for example human T-cell leukaemia virus
  • a personal history of blood disorders, for example myelodysplastic syndrome
  • having someone with leukaemia in the family.

You can lower your risk of getting cancer by eating well, exercising regularly, giving up smoking and cutting back on alcohol. But in many cases, there is no known way to prevent leukaemia.

Last reviewed: April 2017

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Leukaemia - myDr.com.au

Find out about leukaemia, including the different types, symptoms, causes and treatments.

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Acute myeloid leukaemia - Cancer Pathways

For more information about these leukaemias and where to go for support and help call the Leukaemia Foundation on 1800 620 420 or visit www.leukaemia.org.au.

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Prevention, symptoms and treatment for leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma.

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Leukaemia - Cancer Council Australia

Find out information about leukaemia (or leukemias - U.S. spelling) from Australia's most trusted cancer control organisation.

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Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia - Information & Support - CanTeen

Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (CLL) is the most common type of leukaemia, but only develops gradually. Learn more about causes and treatments with CanTeen.

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Leukaemia - Lab Tests Online AU

In Australia about 2,300 adults and 200 children are diagnosed each year with leukaemia, a cancer of the white blood cells (WBCs). While exposure to radiation, benzene, and some anticancer drugs have been shown to increase the risk of developing leukaemia, and a few cases are associated with genetic disorders or rare viral infections, the cause of most leukaemias is not known.

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Leukaemia | Cancer Australia Children's Cancers

Leukaemia is a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow. It occurs when the bone marrow makes too many white blood cells (lymphocytes), which are part of the bodys immune system to fight infections. Find out more on leukaemia, including the types, risk factors, symptoms and treatment

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Leukaemia - Information, Treatment & Support - CanTeen

Leukaemia is a cancer of the white blood cells, which are made in the bone marrow. Learn more about causes, diagnosis and treatments with CanTeen.

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Acute Promyelocytic Leukaemia - Information & Support - CanTeen

Acute promyelocytic leukaemia is characterised by a switching of two chromosomes within the DNA. Learn more about causes and treatments with CanTeen.

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Leukaemia fact sheet | Cancer Australia

An overview of leukaemia including types, symptoms, risk factors, diagnosis, treatment and finding support.

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