Causes and Risk Factors of Acute Myeloid Leukemia


Acute myeloid leukemia(AML) develops when the genetic material or DNA of a bone marrow cell changes (mutates). The DNA of a cell carries the instructions that tell it what to do. Normally, the cell’s DNA directs it to grow at a specific rate and die at a specific time. The mutations in acute myelogenous leukemia tell the bone marrow cell to keep growing and dividing.

As a result of this blood cell production becomes uncontrollable. The bone marrow generates immature cells that grow into myeloblasts, which are leukemic white blood cells. These aberrant cells can accumulate and crowd out good cells because they are unable to operate correctly. This causes your bone marrow to stop working properly as a result, making your body more prone to infections.

The actual cause of the DNA mutation is unknown. Some physicians believe it has something to do with exposure to certain chemicals, radiation, and possibly chemotherapy medicines.


A risk factor is something that influences your chance of contracting a disease, such as cancer. Various cancers have different risk factors. Some risk factors, such as smoking, can be changed. Others, such as a person’s age or family history, can’t be modified.

However, having one or more risk factors does not automatically imply that a person will get cancer, and many people develop cancer despite having no known risk factors.

Some known risk factors of acute myeloid leukemia are given as follows:-

(A) AGE:- 

Acute myeloid leukemia can strike at any age, although it is more frequent among the old.

Adults aged 65 and over are more likely to develop acute myelogenous leukemia.


Acute myelogenous leukemia is more common in men than in women. The cause behind this remains unknown.


Exposure to benzene may raise the chance of developing health problems that later turn cancerous.

Benzene is a chemical that may be found in crude oil and gasoline. Household glues, cleaning chemicals, cigarette smoke, gasoline, and paint stripping products, also have benzene.

People who work in the manufacturing of plastics, synthetic fibers, rubber lubricants, medicines, insecticides, and a variety of other goods may be exposed to benzene are at higher risk.

In general:-

(a)stay away from breathing in gasoline and solvent vapors.

(b)skin contact with benzene-related goods.

(c)benzene-related compounds spilled on the ground.


Smoking is the only known lifestyle-related risk factor for AML. Many people are aware that smoking causes lung, mouth, and throat cancers, but few are aware that it can also harm cells that aren’t in direct touch with tobacco smoke. Tobacco smoke contains cancer-causing chemicals like benzene that are absorbed by the lungs and distributed throughout the body via the bloodstream. Smoking is thought to be responsible for around 20% of all instances of acute myeloid leukemia.


Patients who receive specific chemotherapy (chemo) medicines for cancer are more prone to acquire AML in the years following treatment.

Alkylating agents have been related to an increased risk of AML. Before AML, a patient may develop a condition known as myelodysplastic syndrome. Cyclophosphamide, mechlorethamine, procarbazine, chlorambucil, melphalan, busulfan, carmustine, cisplatin, and carboplatin are examples of alkylating medicines.

AML has also been related to chemo medications such as topoisomerase II inhibitors. AML related to these medications is more likely to develop without the onset of myelodysplastic syndrome. Examples of topoisomerase II inhibitors are etoposide, teniposide, epirubicin, mitoxantrone, and doxorubicin.


A substantial amount of radiation can raise your chances of getting AML, however, this generally requires extremely high levels of exposure.

The use of radiation therapy for cancer has also been related to a higher incidence of AML. The risk varies depending on how much radiation is supplied and where it is administered.

The risk of leukemia from lesser doses of radiation, such as x-rays or CT scans, is not well understood. Exposure to such radiation, especially at a younger age, may raise the chance of leukemia, although the magnitude of the risk is unknown. If there is an increased risk it is possible to be small, but to be safe, most doctors aim to limit radiation exposure from testing as much as possible, especially in pregnant women and children.

It is also associated with treatments for non- Hodgkin lymphoma, Hodgkin disease, childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), and other cancers like ovarian cancer and breast cancer.


AML appears to be more common in those with specific blood diseases. Polycythemia vera, essential thrombocythemia, and idiopathic myelofibrosis are examples of chronic myeloproliferative diseases. If these diseases are treated with chemotherapy or radiation, the risk of AML rises.

AML can occur in patients who have myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). Low blood cell counts and abnormal cells in the blood and bone marrow are symptoms of MDS. MDS can progress to AML over time. AML that develops following MDS is very difficult to treat. About one-third of individuals with this bone marrow failure disease will develop leukemia at some point in their life.


Some syndromes appear to increase the risk of AML. These syndromes are caused by genetic abnormalities present at birth. Some of these includes- 

(a) Shwachman-Diamond Syndrome

(b) Fanconi anemia

(c) Ataxia-telangiectasia

(d) Bloom Syndrome

Chromosomes are long strands of DNA present in our cells. Some chromosomal abnormalities present at birth have also been related to an increased risk of AML, such as:

(a) Down syndrome- It is a condition in which a person is born with an extra copy of chromosome 21.

(b) Eighth trisomy- It is a condition in which a person is born with an extra copy of chromosome 8.


Although most instances of AML are not considered to have a strong genetic relationship, having a close relative (such as a parent, brother, or sister) with acute myeloid leukemia enhances your chances of contracting it.

Someone who has an identical twin who was diagnosed with AML before a year old has an extremely high chance of developing the disease themselves.


Constant exposure to these fields, such as living near power lines, is considered to be associated with the development of acute myeloid leukemia; however, this has not been confirmed yet.