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Risk Factors for Leukemia

  • Amy Scholten, MPH
Publication Type:


Risk Factors for Leukemia

A risk factor is something that raises a person's chances of getting a disease or health problem. A person can have leukemia with or without the risks below. The more risks a person has, the greater the chances are.

Leukemia is most common in adults aged 60 years and older. However, acute lymphoblastic leukemia happens most often in children under 8 years old. Males have a slightly higher risk than females.

Things that raise the risk of most types of leukemia are:


Smoking lets harmful chemicals into the body. Current or past smoking is strongly linked to acute myeloid leukemias and chronic myeloid leukemia. The risk is higher with the number of cigarettes smoked and years as a smoker.


  • Acute lymphoblastic leukemia/lymphoblastic lymphoma (ALL/LBL) in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/acute-lymphoblastic-leukemia-lymphoblastic-lymphoma-all-lbl-in-adults.
  • Acute myeloid leukemia (AML). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/acute-myeloid-leukemia-aml.
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)/small lymphocytic leukemia (SLL). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/chronic-lymphocytic-leukemia-cll-small-lymphocytic-lymphoma-sll.
  • Chronic myeloid leukemia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/chronic-myeloid-leukemia-cml.
  • Overview of leukemia. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/hematology-and-oncology/leukemias/overview-of-leukemia.
  • Zatloukalov√° S, Azeem K, et al. Epidemiology, risk factors and possibilities for the prevention of acute leukaemia. Epidemiol Mikrobiol Imunol. 2021;70(3):208-220.


  • Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.