Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia Risk Factors
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A fast-growing cancer, acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) affects the lymphocytes, the white blood cells the body uses to ward off infection. Acute lymphocytic leukemia results when the lymphocytes produced in the bone marrow are malformed and do not develop normally. Because these cells are malformed and do not fully develop, they are unable to effectively respond to a viral or bacterial infection. These malformed cells (also called leukemia cells) grow rapidly and quickly, and may eventually crowd out the normal white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets.
Below is a brief overview of some of the risk factors associated with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL). However, having one or several of these risk factors does not mean that you will develop the disease. Although these risk factors can increase your chances of developing ALL, most people with ALL have no known risk factors.
What Are the Risk Factors for Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia?
A risk factor is anything that increases the chance that a person will develop a disease. The risks for acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) can be categorized as an environmental, lifestyle or inherited factor.
- Environmental Risk Factors - Environmental risk factors are those related to our surroundings. Exposure to radiation is an environmental risk factor that has been linked to ALL.
- Lifestyle Risk Factors - Lifestyle risk factors are influenced by the choices we make. Smoking and prolonged, unprotected exposure to the sun are examples of lifestyle risk factors. Currently, there are no known lifestyle-related risk factors for ALL.
- Inherited Risk Factors - Inherited risk factors are those that are passed genetically. Although ALL does not appear to be an inherited disease, some genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome, are considered to be acute lymphocytic leukemia risk factors. In addition, people who have a sibling with leukemia show an increased risk for developing ALL.
Other Risk Factors for Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia
In addition to the risk factors above, other possible acute lymphocytic leukemia causes and risk factors that are being studied include:
- Geographical Location - Although the reasons are not known, ALL occurs at different rates across geographical locations.
- Ethnicity & Gender - ALL is more common in whites than in African Americans, and also more common in males than females. However, the reasons for this are still being studied.
- Chemical Exposure - Exposure to gasoline, pesticides, diesel and certain other chemicals is considered an acute lymphocytic leukemia risk factor.
- Cancer Therapy - Individuals who have received certain types of treatments for other forms of cancer show a small increase in their risk of developing ALL.
- Electromagnetic Fields - Prolonged exposure to electromagnetic fields, such as living near power lines, may increase a person’s risk for developing ALL.
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