Causes of AML Leukemia
What causes Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML)?
A risk factor is something that increases a person's chance of getting a disease. Some risk factors, like smoking, can be controlled. Others, such as a person's age, can't be changed.
Smoking is a proven risk factor for AML. Although many people know that smoking causes lung cancer, few realize that it can affect cells that do not come into direct contact with smoke. Cancer-causing substances in tobacco smoke get into the bloodstream and spread to many parts of the body. Smoking causes about 1 in 5 cases of AML.
There are some factors in the environment that are linked to acute leukemia. For example, long-term exposure to high levels of benzene is a risk factor for AML, and high-dose radiation exposure (such as from an atomic blast or nuclear reactor accident) also increases the risk.
People who have had other cancers and were treated with certain chemotherapy drugs are more likely to develop AML. Most of these cases of AML happen within 9 years after treatment.
There is some concern about very high-voltage power lines as a risk factor for leukemia. The National Cancer Institute has several large studies going on now to look into this question. So far, the studies show either no increased risk or a very slightly increased risk. Clearly, most cases of leukemia are not related to power lines.
Understanding Risk Factors
While some people with acute myelogenous leukemia have one or more known risk factors mentioned earlier, most do not. The cause of their cancer remains unknown at this time. Even when a patient has one or more risk factors, there is no way to tell whether it actually caused the cancer. And many people with one or more cancer risk factors never develop this disease.
During the past few years, scientists have made great progress in understanding how certain changes in DNA can cause normal bone marrow cells to become leukemic cells. DNA is the chemical that carries the instructions for nearly everything our cells do. We usually look like our parents because they are the source of our DNA. However, DNA affects more than our outward appearance.
Some genes (parts of our DNA) contain instructions for controlling when our cells grow and divide. Certain genes that promote cell division are called protooncogenes. Others that slow down cell division or cause cells to die at the appropriate time are called tumor suppressor genes. We know that cancers can be caused by DNA mutations (gene defects) that turn on protooncogenes or turn off tumor suppressor genes.
Every time a cell prepares to divide into two new cells, it must duplicate its DNA. This process is not perfect and copying errors can occur. Fortunately, cells have repair enzymes that proofread DNA. But some errors may slip past, especially if the cells are growing rapidly.
Translocations are the best known type of DNA abnormality that can cause leukemia to develop. Human DNA is packaged in 23 pairs of chromosomes. A translocation means that DNA from one chromosome breaks off and becomes attached to a different chromosome. Translocations, which often occur in cases of AML, can turn on oncogenes or turn off genes that would normally help a cell to mature.
Other chromosome changes such as deletions (the loss of part of a chromosome) and inversions (the rearrangement of the DNA in part of a chromosome) can also affect the development of AML.
Some people with certain types of cancer have inherited DNA mutations from a parent. These changes increase their risk for the disease. Acute myeloid leukemia is very rarely caused by one of these inherited mutations.
Usually DNA mutations related to AML occur during life rather than having been inherited before birth. Acquired mutations may result from exposure to radiation, cancer-causing chemicals, or they occur sometimes for no apparent reason.
American Cancer Society
Benzene Lawsuits – Talk to a Benzene Lawyer
If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with any of the following leukemia's, then please contact us immediately:
- Aplastic Anemia (AA)
- Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML)
- Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS)
- Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma (NHL)
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