Risk Factor of Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia

Executive Summary

Risk factors influence the chance of developing cancer (acute lymphocytic leukemia) among individuals, but individuals with no risk factors also develop cancer. Even so, having a risk factor, or many do not give certainty of having particular cancer. Generally, ALL is most likely to affect children and older adults. The common risk factors of acute lymphocytic leukemia cancers include age (children younger than 15 and adults older than 50), genetic conditions (Down syndrome, Ataxia telangiectasia, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Klinefelter syndrome, Fanconi anaemia, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome, Bloom syndrome), high radiations, and viruses. According to recent research, young children who develop ALL may have had genetic changes before birth that are signs of ALL. However, it may take several years before the disease develops and causes symptoms.

Risk Factors Associated with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia

While the cause of ALL remains unknown, ALL is generally most likely to affect children and older adults. The given factors may raise the risk of developing ALL ​1​

  • Age – Children younger than 15 and adults older than 50 are more likely to develop ALL ​2​.
  • Genetic conditions – People with some genetic conditions have a higher risk of ALL than the general population. These conditions include the following syndromes ​3​:
    • Down syndrome
    • Ataxia telangiectasia
    • Li-Fraumeni syndrome
    • Klinefelter syndrome
    • Fanconi anemia
    • Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome
    • Bloom syndrome
  • High doses of radiation – People exposed to high radiation levels may be more likely to develop ALL. This also includes long-term survivors of atomic bombs. Even so, exposure to high-voltage electric lines or electromagnetic fields has not been proven to increase the risk of ALL ​4​. Unlike the popular conception, the use of cell phones is not a known risk factor for ALL.
  • Viruses – Occasionally, ALL or specific types of lymphoma can be associated with a previous viral infection. Such infections also include human T-cell leukemia virus-1 or the Epstein-Barr virus.


  1. 1.
    Yi M, Zhou L, Li A, Luo S, Wu K. Global burden and trend of acute lymphoblastic leukemia from 1990 to 2017. aging. Published online November 16, 2020. doi:10.18632/aging.103982
  2. 2.
    Malard F, Mohty M. Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. The Lancet. Published online April 2020:1146-1162. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(19)33018-1
  3. 3.
    Brown AL, de Smith AJ, Gant VU, et al. Inherited genetic susceptibility to acute lymphoblastic leukemia in Down syndrome. Blood. Published online July 26, 2019:1227-1237. doi:10.1182/blood.2018890764
  4. 4.
    Coste A, Hémon D, Orsi L, et al. Residential exposure to ultraviolet light and risk of precursor B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia: assessing the role of individual risk factors, the ESCALE and ESTELLE studies. Cancer Causes Control. Published online August 2, 2017:1075-1083. doi:10.1007/s10552-017-0936-5