What causes leukaemia to develop?
Some experts believe that leukaemia is caused by an as-yet-unidentified mix of genetic and environmental variables that cause mutations in the bone marrow cells. These alterations referred to as leukemic modifications, lead the cells to proliferate and expand extraordinarily quickly. The quantity of harmful white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets in the body might outweigh good white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets, making the blood less efficient at fulfilling its function. As a result, a leukaemia patient is more likely to bleed, bruise, or get exhausted, as well as be more prone to infection.
Also check out: Leukaemia: Causes and Symptoms
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Factors that can lead to leukaemia:
Leukaemia develops when the DNA of developing blood cells, mainly white cells, incurs damage. This causes the blood cells to grow and divide uncontrollably.
Healthy blood cells die, and new cells replace them. These develop in the bone marrow.
The abnormal blood cells do not die at a natural point in their life cycle. Instead, they build up and occupy more space.
As the bone marrow produces more cancer cells, they begin to overcrowd the blood, preventing the healthy white blood cells from growing and functioning normally.
Eventually, the cancerous cells outnumber healthy cells in the blood.
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While the specific aetiology of leukaemia – or any disease for that matter – is unclear, some risk factors have been found, including radiation exposure, prior cancer therapy, and being over 65. Researchers are evaluating certain combinations of genetic and environmental factors that are thought to be linked to leukaemia and what causes bone marrow cells to mutate to determine the specific genetic and environmental factors that are thought to be linked to leukaemia and what causes bone marrow cells to mutate –
- A genetic predisposition
- Down syndrome
- Human T-lymphotropic virus (HTLV)
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- Exposure to petrochemicals, such as benzene
- Extensive exposure to artificial ionizing radiation
- Alkylating chemotherapy agents administered to treat other types of cancer
- Tobacco use
- Use of certain hair dyes
There is a range of risk factors for leukaemia. Some of these risk factors have more significant links to leukaemia than others:
Artificial ionizing radiation: This could include having received radiation therapy for previous cancer, although this is a more significant risk factor for some types than others.
Certain viruses: The human T-lymphotropic virus (HTLV-1) has links to leukaemia.
Chemotherapy: People who received chemotherapy treatment for previous cancer have a higher chance of developing leukaemia later in life.
Exposure to benzene: This is a solvent that manufacturers use in some cleaning chemicals and hair dyes.
Some genetic conditions: Children with Down syndrome have a third copy of chromosome 21. This increases their risk of acute myeloid or acute lymphocytic leukaemia to 2–3%Trusted Source, which is higher than in children without this syndrome.
Another genetic condition with links to leukaemia is Li-Fraumeni syndrome. This causes a change to the TP53 gene.
Family history: Having siblings with leukaemia can lead to a low but significant risk of leukaemia. If a person has an identical twin with leukaemia, they have a 1 in 5 chance of having cancer themselves.
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Inherited problems with the immune system: Certain inherited immune conditions increase the risk of both severe infections and leukaemia. These include:
Immune suppression: Childhood leukaemia may develop due to the deliberate suppression of the immune system. This might occur following an organ transplant as a child takes medications to prevent their body from rejecting the organ.
Several risk factors need further studies to confirm their link to leukaemia, such as:
exposure to electromagnetic fields
exposure to certain chemicals in the workplace, such as gasoline, diesel, and pesticides
using hair dyes
You may have heard that particular meals, supplements, or other goods can lower your cancer risk. While that may seem appealing, you should be aware that the majority of those claims aren’t backed up by sufficient scientific evidence.
There are a few foods that have been linked to the prevention of certain malignancies. Most of these foods are nutritious additions to any diet, so giving them a try is a no-brainer.
The greatest strategy to avoid leukaemia until more study is done to uncover precise strategies to prevent it is to lower the risk factors you can manage.
You can minimize your chance of leukaemia by making a few lifestyle changes. Other forms of cancer can also be reduced by doing these procedures.
Quit smoking. Smoking increases your risk of multiple types of cancer, including leukaemia. Never smoking or quitting smoking will lower your risk of leukaemia.
Maintain a moderate weight. Having obesity is another risk for leukaemia that you can control. Taking steps to keep a moderate weight can reduce your risk of leukaemia. You can start by developing a balanced diet and making physical activity part of your everyday life.
Avoid breathing in certain chemicals. The chemicals benzene and formaldehyde are known to increase your risk of leukaemia. These chemicals can be found in some workplaces and buildings. If possible, avoiding these chemicals can lower your risk of leukaemia.
These prevention tips can be used to reduce your risk of both types of acute leukaemia, acute lymphocytic leukaemia (ALL) and acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). Keep in mind that reducing your risk doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed not to get leukaemia, but it does mean your chances are lowered.
There’s no clear way to prevent leukaemia. In both adults and children, the cause of leukaemia is often unknown. There are some known risk factors, but many of them are things you can’t control or avoid.
But you can make changes to your lifestyle to reduce your risk of leukaemia. Quitting smoking and managing your weight are the best steps you can take to lower your risk. These aren’t guaranteed to prevent leukaemia, but lowering your risk is a positive step.