Can Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia Be Prevented?

It’s not clear what causes most cases of acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL). Since most people with ALL don’t have risk factors that can be changed, for now, there is no known way to prevent most cases of ALL.

Treating some other cancers with chemotherapy or radiation may cause secondary (treatment-related) leukemias in some people. 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, might lower the risk of getting ALL. But most experts agree that exposure to workplace and environmental chemicals seems to account for only a small portion of leukemias.

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Appelbaum FR. Chapter 98: Acute Leukemias in Adults. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Dorshow JH, Kastan MB, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa. Elsevier: 2014.

Jain N, Gurbuxani S, Rhee C, Stock W. Chapter 65: Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in Adults. In: Hoffman R, Benz EJ, Silberstein LE, Heslop H, Weitz J, Anastasi J, eds. Hematology: Basic Principles and Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier; 2013.

National Cancer Institute. Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Treatment (PDQ®). Accessed at www.cancer.gov/types/leukemia/patient/child-all-treatment-pdq on July 20, 2018.

Last Medical Review: October 17, 2018 Last Revised: October 17, 2018

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