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Most people who develop acute myeloid leukemia (AML) do not have any risk factors that can be avoided. Most cases of AML have no clear cause. Since the cause is not known, there is no way to prevent most of these leukemias.

Smoking is by far the most important risk factor that can be controlled, 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 get many other cancers, as well as heart disease, stroke, and other diseases.

Treatment of other cancers with chemotherapy and radiation may cause secondary (after treatment) leukemias. Doctors are trying to figure out ways to treat these cancers without raising their risk of getting leukemia later on. But for now, the real need to treat cancers with chemotherapy and radiation must be balanced against the small chance of getting leukemia years later.

Avoiding known cancer-causing industrial chemicals, such as benzene, can lower the risk of getting AML. But most experts agree that only a small number of leukemia cases are linked to these chemicals.

Last Medical Review: 04/21/2015
Last Revised: 02/22/2016