Leukemia is a group of cancers that develop in blood cells. CLL develops in a type of white blood cell called lymphocytes. The rapid division of lymphocytes can crowd out healthy blood cells. Over time, this can lead to symptoms like:
- abnormal bruising
- frequent infections
The exact cause of CLL isn’t clear, but researchers have identified risk factors that seem to increase your chances of developing CLL. Read on to learn more.
The following have been identified as risk factors or potential risk factors for CLL.
A family history of CLL is the strongest known risk factor. It’s estimated that people with a parent, siblings, or child with CLL have an 8.5 times higher risk of developing CLL than somebody without a family history.
The average age of onset is 72.
Exposure to chemicals
Exposure to certain chemicals may increase your risk of developing CLL.
One chemical associated with an increased risk of CLL is Agent Orange. This herbicide was used during the Vietnam War to clear leaves and vegetation. Production stopped in the United States in the 1970s.
In a 2018
- half of veterans exposed to Agent Orange who developed CLL were younger than 63.2
- half of veterans not exposed to Agent Orange who developed CLL were younger than 70.5
The researchers found that Agent Orange exposure wasn’t associated with a poorer outlook.
According to the
Although current evidence isn’t as strong, some studies suggest a link between benzene exposure and CLL.
The risk of developing CLL is about
In a 2019
Asian people in the United States have similar rates of CLL as Asian people living in Asia. This suggests that genetic factors contribute to racial differences.
CLL may have different outlooks in different races.
Researchers aren’t exactly sure what causes CLL. A combination of genetic and environmental factors likely contribute.
Like all forms of cancer, CLL develops when genetic mutations cause cells to replicate uncontrollably. In the case of CLL, these cells are a type of white blood cell called lymphocytes.
A loss of part of chromosome 13 is the most common genetic mutation in people with CLL. Loss of part of chromosomes 11 or 17 are also common. In some cases, there may be an extra chromosome 12.
Many of the risk factors for CLL, like your genes or biological sex, are out of your control. Most people with CLL have
You may be able to lower your chances of developing CLL by:
- avoiding contact with benzene
- maintaining a healthy body weight
- minimizing contact with some herbicides or pesticides
- wearing protective clothing when you do come into contact with herbicides, pesticides, or other potentially carcinogenic chemicals
Does having CLL put you at high risk for COVID-19?
Taking precautions, like wearing a mask in public spaces and getting vaccinated, can help you minimize your chances of developing illness or severe illness.
What are the common symptoms of CLL?
CLL may not cause any noticeable symptoms in the early stages. As it progresses, it may cause symptoms such as:
- frequent infections
- shortness of breath
- abnormal bleeding or bruising
- night sweats
- unintentional weight loss
- abdominal swelling or discomfort
- swollen lymph nodes
What are the treatment options for CLL?
Treatment for CLL depends on factors such as how far along your cancer has progressed and your overall health. Options include:
- watchful waiting
- target therapy
- radiation therapy
- chemotherapy with bone marrow transplant
- new treatments being explored in clinical trials
What’s the most common cause of death in CLL?
In a 2021
|Cause of death in people with CLL||Percentage|
|complications related to disease progression||34.6%|
What’s the outlook for CLL?
CLL is the most common type of adult leukemia in the United States. The exact cause of CLL isn’t clear, but researchers have identified some risk factors.
A family history of CLL is the strongest risk factor. Increased age, male sex, and exposure to some chemicals are among the other risk factors.
Many of the risk factors for CLL are out of your control. Avoiding or minimizing exposure to pesticides and herbicides and other potentially carcinogenic chemicals may help reduce your odds of developing CLL and some other cancers.