Leukaemia is a type of blood cancer that affects people of all ages. However, this cancer is the most common cancer in children younger than 15 years, with the acute lymphoblastic leukaemia being the type diagnosed in three quarter of children suffering from leukaemia cancer. In adults, especially those above 55 years of age, acute myeloid leukaemia and chronic lymphocytic leukaemia are the most common types of leukaemia cancer.
Leukaemia cancers affect the blood forming tissues of the body, which are the bone marrow and lymphatic system. It occurs as a result of mutation in the DNA of the bone marrow cells causing abnormal cell development. Some common leukaemia symptoms are persistent fatigue and weakness, weight loss, fever, easy bruising or bleeding, recurrent nose bleeding and excessive sweating especially during the night.
Causes and Risks Factors
Leukaemia is said not to be genetic. However, parents can pass over certain genetic mutations or conditions that can increase a child’s risk of developing this cancer.
To understand how the risk of leukaemia can be reduced, we need to know the factors that increase the chance of genetic mutations that lead to abnormality in the DNA. These factors include:
- Environmental factors: Exposure to industrial chemicals like benzene or high amounts of radiation either because of your working or your living environment can increase your risk of leukaemia. Other chemicals that can also increase the risk for this cancer are pesticides.
- Previous cancer treatment: Cancer patients who have gone through chemo and/or radiation therapy can be at an increased risk of developing leukaemia cancer. This risk can also be increased by radiation exposure during imaging tests like CT scans, MRI’s and X-rays.
How does chemotherapy increase cancer risk?
- The drugs used in chemotherapy treatment, such as;
1. Alkylating agents which interfere with cell DNA and which can lead to Acute myeloid leukaemia 9AML) or Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS),
2. Topoisomerase II inhibitors which prevent cells from repairing DNA and can cause AML.
- Tobacco: Tobacco use can increase the risk of several cancers including leukaemia cancer.
- Family History: A person who has a close family member such as a sibling or parent diagnosed with leukaemia can also be at a higher risk of developing the same cancer.
- Genetic disorders: Certain conditions or disorders such as Down syndrome and Klinefelter syndrome and neurofibromatosis, among others, may increase the risk of Acute Lymphocytic Leukaemia.
- Being overweight or obese.
Cancer prevention focuses on risk reduction as there is no exact way to prevent cancer. Some of the ways the risk of leukaemia cancer ca be reduced are by:
- Not smoking and if you do, quitting.
- Avoiding exposure to chemicals or wearing protective clothing when in a polluted environment or when using pesticides at home.
- Avoiding radiation exposure by wearing protective clothing.
- Maintaining a healthy diet because eating healthy keeps the body’s immunity strong enabling it to fight infections.
- Maintaining a healthy body weight as overweightness and obesity can increase leukaemia cancer risk.
- Remaining active by doing regular exercises to reduce the risk of solid tumours.