Chronic lymphocytic leukemia

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Risk factors for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)

A risk factor is something that increases the risk of developing cancer. It could be a behaviour, substance or condition. Most cancers are the result of many risk factors. But sometimes chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) develops in people who don’t have any of the risk factors described below.

The risk of developing CLL increases with age. It usually occurs in people over the age of 50 years. More men than women develop CLL. It is also more common in people of Russian and European descent than people of Chinese, Japanese or Southeast Asian ancestry.

Risk factor

There is convincing evidence that a family history of CLL increases your risk for CLL.

Possible risk factors

The following factors have been linked with CLL, but there is not enough evidence to show for sure that they are risk factors. More research is needed to clarify the role of these factors for CLL.

  • coming into contact with pesticides through farming or other jobs
  • coming into contact with Agent Orange, a mixture of herbicides used during the Vietnam War
  • overweight or obesity
  • breathing in benzene

No link to CLL

Significant research shows that there is no link between radiation and a higher risk of CLL.

Questions to ask your healthcare team

To make the decisions that are right for you, ask your healthcare team questions about risks.

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