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At least 2 percent of people over age 40 and 5 percent of people over 70 have mutations linked to leukemia and lymphoma in their blood cells. Learn if you have a genetic predisposition to a blood cancer.

Overview

Random mutations in your body’s cells accumulate as part of the aging process. Most are harmless. For some people, genetic changes in your blood cells can develop in genes that are linked to the onset of leukemia and lymphoma. In fact, non-Hodgkin lymphoma is one of the most common cancers in the United States, accounting for about 4% of all cancers.

Genetic Tests

Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) is a new type of test that “maps” the genetic material in human cells. For this reason it can map genetic abnormalities associated with particular types of cancer and whether that cancer will respond to chemotherapy drugs.

FISH can identify chromosomal abnormalities in leukemias, including chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) cells, some of which are associated with aggressive forms of the disease.

Risk Factors for Leukemia/Lymphoma

A risk factor is anything that affects your chance of developing a disease such as cancer. Having one or more risk factors does not mean you will have leukemia or lymphoma, and having no risk factors does not mean you cannot develop a blood cancer such as leukemia or lymphoma.

Known risk factors vary for different types of leukemia, but some common factors have been identified :

  • Age — some forms of leukemia occur primarily in children, and others are most common in older adults
  • Smoking —smoking is a known risk factor for one type of leukemic disease, acute myelogenous leukemia (AML)
  • Family history — your risk of developing leukemia is increased if a family member has had the disease
  • Radiation exposure — exposure to high levels of radiation, as in a nuclear accident, increases your risk for developing leukemia
  • Certain chemical exposures — exposure to chemicals, such as benzene, can raise your risk for leukemia
  • Genetic syndromes — some genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome, heighten the risk of developing leukemia
  • Sex — leukemia is slightly more common in men than women

Risk factors for various types of lymphoma differ, but they may include these common risk factors:

  • Age — some lymphomas, such as Hodgkin’s disease, are common in younger people, but most occur in people in their 60s or older
  • Mononucleosis — people who have had mononucleosis, an infection caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, are at an increased risk for developing Hodgkin’s disease
  • Race and sex — some forms of lymphoma are more prevalent depending on your race or sex
  • Geography — Hodgkin’s disease is less common in Asian countries
  • Family history — your risk of developing leukemia is increased if a family member has had the disease
  • HIV/AIDS — infection with HIV/AIDS causes a weakened immune system and may heighten your risk for developing lymphoma
  • Exposure to certain chemicals— long-term exposure to pesticides and petrochemicals may increase your risk of developing lymphoma
  • Radiation exposure — exposure to high levels of radiation, as in a nuclear accident, increases your risk of developing lymphoma
  • Autoimmune diseases — autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and Sjögren syndrome, and the drugs used to treat them, may heighten the risk for certain lymphoma types

Contact Us

Contact our clinic today to set up a meeting with one of our genetic counselors to learn more about leukemia/lymphoma and your diagnosis and treatment options.