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At this time we do not know the cause of most cases of acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL). But some cases can be linked to certain risk factors. A risk factor is something that affects 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.

But risk factors don't tell us everything. Having a risk factor, or even several risk factors, does not mean that you will get the disease. And many people who get the disease may have few or no known risk factors. Even if a person has one or more risk factors and gets cancer, it is often very hard to know what part they may have played in getting the cancer.

There are only a few known risk factors for ALL.

  • Radiation exposure
  • Exposure to certain chemicals
  • Infection with certain viruses
  • Certain inherited syndromes
  • Having an identical twin who was diagnosed with ALL in the first year of life

For more information about these risk factors, see Leukemia – Acute Lymphocytic (Adults).

Last Medical Review: 12/08/2014
Last Revised: 02/22/2016