Leukemia - Causes

No one knows what causes leukemia. Researchers have strong suspicions about four possible causes, however. They are radiation, chemicals, viruses, and genetic factors.

  • Radiation. The term "radiation" refers to various forms of energy, such as X rays and ultraviolet (UV) light found in sunlight. Radiation can tear chemicals apart, thus damaging or destroying cells. Some researchers believe that exposure to radiation can cause some forms of leukemia.
  • Chemicals. Some types of chemicals are known to be carcinogens (pronounced car-SIN-o-genz). A carcinogen is anything that can cause cancer. Chemicals can cause cancer by damaging cells and the substances within them.
  • Viruses. Some researchers believe that some types of leukemia are viral infections. A virus is a very small organism that can cause a disease. The link between viruses and leukemia is strong in some cases, but it has not been proved.
  • Genetics. Leukemia tends to occur in some families more commonly than in others. This suggests that at least some forms of leukemia may be hereditary.

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