It’s not clear what causes most cases of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Since most people with AML don’t have risk factors that can be changed, at the present time there is no known way to prevent most cases of AML.
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. Doctors are trying to figure out how to treat these cancers without raising the risk of secondary leukemia. But for now, the obvious benefits of treating life-threatening cancers with chemotherapy and radiation 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 seems to account for only a small portion of leukemia cases.
Last Revised: 02/22/2016