Can acute myeloid leukemia be prevented?
It’s not known what causes most cases of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Since most leukemia patients have no known risk factors, at the present time there is no way to prevent it from developing.
Smoking is by far the most significant controllable risk factor for AML, and quitting offers the greatest chance to reduce a person’s risk of AML. Of course, non-smokers are also much less likely than smokers to develop many other cancers, as well as heart disease, stroke, and some other diseases.
Treating some other cancers with chemotherapy and radiation may cause secondary (post-treatment) leukemias (see the section called “What are the risk factors for acute myeloid leukemia?”). Doctors are trying to figure out how to treat these cancers without raising the risk of developing secondary leukemia. But for now, the obvious benefits of treating life-threatening cancers with chemotherapy and radiation therapy must be balanced against the small chance of getting leukemia years later.
Avoiding known cancer-causing chemicals, such as benzene, can lower the risk of getting AML. But most experts agree that exposure to workplace and environmental chemicals accounts for only a small portion of leukemia cases.
Last Medical Review: 07/24/2013
Last Revised: 02/07/2014