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Cancer Genetics

Prevention and Treatment of Leukemia

02/14/2000

Question:

What ways are there to prevent Leukemia? What treatments are there?

Answer:

Different types of leukemias have different risk factors. Risk factors for Leukemia include: 1) family history -- first-degree relatives (parents, siblings, or children) of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia patients have a two-to-fourfold increased risk for this cancer. 2) High dose radiation exposure (such as being a survivor of an atomic bomb blast or nuclear reactor accident) increases the risk of developing Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia, but not Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. 3) herbicide and/or pesticide exposures increase the risk of acquiring chronic lymphocytic leukemia. 4) smoking -- scientists estimate that about one-fifth of cases of Acute Myelogenous Leukemia are caused by smoking. 5) benzene exposure -- exposure to high levels of benzene is a risk factor for Acute Myelogenous Leukemia. 6) chemotherapy -- Patients with other cancers who are treated with certain chemotherapy drugs are more likely to develop Acute Myelogenous Leukemia. The drugs most often associated with these secondary (post-treatment) leukemias include mechlorethamine, procarbazine, chlorambucil, etoposide, teniposide and to a lesser degree, cyclophosphamide. Combining these drugs with radiation therapy further increases the risk. Secondary leukemias sometimes occur following treatment of breast, ovarian, or other cancers.

The treatments for leukemia are summarized on the National Cancer Institute`s web site.

Related Resources:

CancerNet: PDQ -- NCI's Comprehensive Cancer Database

For more information:

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Response by:

Judith A Westman, MD Judith A Westman, MD
Associate Professor, Clinical Internal Medicine, Pediatrics and Medical Biochemistry
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University