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A risk factor is anything that increases a person's chance of developing cancer. Although risk factors often influence the development of cancer, most do not directly cause cancer. Some people with several risk factors never develop cancer, while others with no known risk factors do. However, knowing your risk factors and talking about them with your doctor may help you make more informed lifestyle and health care choices.
Although the cause of AML is not known, several factors are associated with an increased risk of the disease. The following factors may raise a person's risk of developing AML:
Age. AML is more common in older adults, but it occurs at all ages. About half of people with AML are older than 65 when diagnosed.
Smoking. The risk of AML has been linked to exposure to tobacco smoke, probably in association with other causes.
Genetic disorders. AML occurs more frequently in people with inherited disorders such as Down syndrome, ataxia telangiectasia, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Klinefelter syndrome, Fanconi anemia, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome, Bloom syndrome, and the Familial Platelet Disorder syndrome.
High doses of radiation. People who have been exposed to high levels of radiation, such as long-term survivors of atomic bombs, may be more likely to develop AML. Electromagnetic fields generated by high-voltage electrical power lines have not been shown to cause AML.
Previous cancer treatment. People who have received chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy for other types of cancer, such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and lymphoma, have a higher risk of developing AML in the years following such treatment.
Chemicals. Long-term contact with products containing the chemical benzene, found in petroleum, cigarette smoke, and industrial workplaces, raises the risk of AML. However, exposure to industrial solvents and hair dyes has not been proven to increase a person's risk of AML.
Symptoms and Signs
People with AML may experience the following symptoms or signs. Sometimes, people with AML do not show any of these symptoms. Or, these symptoms may be caused by a medical condition that is not cancer. If you are concerned about a symptom or sign on this list, please talk with your doctor.
- Easy bruising or bleeding
- Weight loss
- Bone or abdominal pain
- Difficulty breathing; dyspnea (shortness of breath)
- Frequent infections
- Swollen lymph nodes (glands)
- Swollen or bleeding gums
Your doctor will ask you questions about the symptoms you are experiencing to help find out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis. This may include how long you've been experiencing the symptom(s) and how often.
If cancer is diagnosed, relieving symptoms and side effects remains an important part of care and treatment. This may also be called symptom management, palliative care, or supportive care. Be sure to talk with your health care team about symptoms you experience, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms.