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Can Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) Be Prevented?

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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. People who don't smoke are also much less likely to develop many other cancers, as well as heart disease, stroke, and some other diseases than people who do.

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 AML. But most experts agree that exposure to workplace and environmental chemicals seems to account for only a small portion of leukemias.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

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.

National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Acute Myeloid Leukemia. V.1.2018. Accessed at on June 14, 2018.

Stock W, Thirman MJ. Pathogenesis of acute myeloid leukemia. UpToDate. 2018. Accessed at on June 14, 2018.

Last Revised: August 21, 2018

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