Risk factors for chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML)

A risk factor is something that increases the risk of developing cancer. It could be a behaviour, substance or condition. Most cancers are the result of many risk factors. Coming into contact with high levels of radiation is the most important risk factor for chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML).

The risk of developing CML increases with age. It usually occurs in people over the age of 65 years. Men develop CML more often than women.

Risk factor

There is convincing evidence that coming into contact with high levels of radiation – for example, radiation from nuclear reactor accidents – is a risk factor for CML.

Possible risk factors

The following factors have been linked with CML, but there is not enough evidence to show for sure that they are risk factors. More research is needed to clarify the role of these factors for CML.

  • breathing in formaldehyde
  • previous radiation therapy
  • overweight or obesity

Questions to ask your healthcare team

To make the decisions that are right for you, ask your healthcare team questions about risks.

Expert review and references

  • American Cancer Society. What are the risk factors for chronic myelogenous leukemia?. 2016: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/chronic-myeloid-leukemia/causes-risks-prevention/risk-factors.html.
  • Castillo JJ, Reagan JL, Ingham RR, Furman M, Dalia S, Merhi B, Nemr S, Zarrabi A, Mitri J. . Obesity but not overweight increases the incidence and mortality of leukemia in adults: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Leukemia Research. 2012.
  • Druker BJ, Marin D . Chronic myelogenous leukemia. DeVita VT Jr, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA. Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 10th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2015: Chapter 109.
  • Gentry PR, Rodricks JV, Turnbull D, Bachand A, Van Landingham C, Shipp AM, Albertini RJ, Irons R. . Formaldehyde exposure and leukemia: critical review and reevaluation of the results from a study that is the focus for evidence of biological plausibility. Critical Reviews in Toxicology. 2013.
  • International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Volume 100D: Radiation: a review of human carcinogens. 2011: http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Monographs/vol100D/mono100D.pdf.
  • International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Volume 100F: Chemical agents and related occupations: a review of human carcinogens. 2012: http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Monographs/vol100F/index.php.
  • Linet, M.S., Devesa, S.S., & Morgan, G.J. . The leukemias. Schottenfeld, D. & Fraumeni, J. F. Jr. (eds.). Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press; 2006: 44: pp. 841-871.
  • National Toxicology Program. 14th Report on Carcinogens. Department of Health and Human Services; 2016: http://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/pubhealth/roc/index-1.html.
  • Saberi Hosnijeh F, Romieu I, Gallo V, Riboli E, Tjonneland A, Halkjaer J, et al . Anthropometric characteristics and risk of lymphoid and myeloid leukemia in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC). Cancer Causes and Control. 2013.

Reducing your risk for chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML)

You may lower your risk of developing chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) by doing the following.