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Risk Factors for Chronic Myeloid Leukemia

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A risk factor is something that affects a person's chance of getting a disease such as cancer. For example, exposing skin to strong sunlight is a risk factor for skin cancer. Smoking is a risk factor for a number of cancers. But having a risk factor, or even many risk factors, does not mean that you will get the disease. And many people who get the disease may not have had any known risk factors.

The only risk factors for chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) are:

  • Radiation exposure: Being exposed to high-dose radiation (such as being a survivor of an atomic bomb blast or nuclear reactor accident) increases the risk of getting CML
  • Age: The risk of getting CML goes up with age
  • Sex: This disease is slightly more common in males than females, but it's not known why

There are no other proven risk factors for CML. The risk of getting CML does not seem to be affected by smoking, diet, exposure to chemicals, or infections. And CML does not run in families.

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.

American Society of Clinical Oncology. Leukemia - Chronic Myeloid - CML: Treatment Options. 11/2016. Accessed at on May 14, 2018.

National Cancer Institute. Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia Treatment (PDQ)-Patient Version. March 30, 2018. Accessed at on May 14, 2018.


Last Revised: June 19, 2018