Special Report

21 Common and Controversial Blood Cancer Risk Factors

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11. Family history

Family history can only tell so much about the likelihood of being diagnosed with cancer. The occurrence of cancer in a family is not a death sentence, just as the absence of cancer in a family is no guarantee one family member won’t be diagnosed eventually. People in the same family may get cancer because they have similar lifestyles and behaviors that raise the risk of the disease.

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12. Radiation

Radiation is everywhere, and the word often scares people. But lower-energy, non-ionizing forms of radiation, such as radiation from cell phones, have not been found to cause cancer in people, according to the National Cancer Institute. However, high-energy radiation, such as gamma rays, alpha particles, beta particles, and neutrons, can damage DNA and cause cancer. X-rays and other medical procedures, such as CT scans, also release radiation that can technically lead to cancer, but the risk is very small.  High doses of ionizing radiation may damage organs and cause blood diseases, according to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America.

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13. Blood disorders

Certain blood disorders, including chronic myeloproliferative disorders (MPDs) — slow-growing blood cancers where the bone marrow makes too many abnormal cells that accumulate in the blood — increase the chances of developing AML, according to Cancer Treatment Centers of America. While MPDs are difficult to diagnose — because the symptoms develop later and are too general — they are fairly rare and have no clear cause.

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14. Pesticides

There is initial evidence to suggest that exposure to pesticides before or after birth may increase the risk of childhood leukemia, but more research needs to be done to prove a conclusive connection. Some studies, specifically on non-Hodgkin lymphoma and leukemia, show associations with pesticide exposure. Pesticides may induce an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body, which can lead to DNA cell damage and chromosomal mutations that can trigger infant, but not childhood, leukemia.

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15. Living near high-voltage power lines

Prolonged exposure to electromagnetic fields, including living near power lines, may increase the risk of developing ALL. A 2005 British study conducted by Oxford University found a 69% higher risk of leukemia in children who lived within 650 feet of high-voltage power lines compared to children who lived farther away. No evidence was found to support a causal connection between power lines and blood cancer.

A 2016 study published in the British Journal of Cancer conducted in California found a “slightly” higher risk of developing childhood leukemia in kids living within 50 miles of transmission lines with voltage higher than 200kV.

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