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Possible Causes of Leukemia
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At this time, we do not know what causes leukemia. Researchers are trying to solve this problem. Scientists know that leukemia occurs in males more often than in females and in white people more often than in black people. However, they cannot explain why one person gets leukemia and another does not.
By studying large numbers of people all over the world, researchers have found certain risk factors that increase a person's risk of getting leukemia. For example, exposure to large amounts of high-energy radiation increases the risk of getting leukemia. Such radiation was produced by the atomic bomb explosions in Japan during World War II. In nuclear power plants, strict safety rules protect workers and the public from exposure to harmful amounts of radiation.
Some research suggests that exposure to electromagnetic fields is a possible risk factor for leukemia. (Electromagnetic fields are a type of low-energy radiation that comes from power lines and electric appliances.) However, more studies are needed to prove this link.
Certain genetic conditions can increase the risk for leukemia. One such condition is Down's syndrome; children born with this syndrome are more likely to get leukemia than other children.
Workers exposed to certain chemicals over a long period of time are at higher risk for leukemia. Benzene is one of these chemicals. Also, some of the drugs used to treat other types of cancer may increase a person's risk of getting leukemia. However, this risk is very small when compared with the benefits of chemotherapy.
Scientists have identified a virus that seems to increase the risk for one very uncommon type of leukemia. However, this virus has no known association with common forms of leukemia. Scientists throughout the world continue to study viruses and other possible risk factors for leukemia. By learning what causes this disease, researchers hope to better understand how to prevent and treat it.
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