Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia: Causes
1. Smoke and alcohol
Cigarette smoke contains benzene which is considered to be a significant cause of acute lymphoblastic leukemia. In fact, not just active smokers but the passive smokers and an unborn baby may also get affected due to the same. Interestingly, nearly half of the US population is exposed to benzene in the form of cigarette smoke creating the potential risk to this type of cancer. Likewise, the use of alcohol may trigger genetic changes in the fetus, resulting in the occurrence of this cancer to the baby during her lifetime.
2. Genetic disorders
The presence of certain genetic disorders like the Down’s syndrome, Bloom’s Syndrome and Shwachman Syndrome play an important role in causing this type of leukemia. It is observed that chromosomal changes, including the deletion of pseudoautosomal regions of the chromosomes or improper coding/non-coding of the chromosomes, result due to such genetic disorders which triggers the development of cancerous cells.
3. Electromagnetic radiations
Increased exposure to electromagnetic radiations can also result in such mutations of the chromosomes which adversely affects the growth of the lymphocyte cells making them cancerous. Such chances are more prominent near power stations or power generation plants.
4. Congenital immune deficiencies
In case of congenital immune deficiency problems like Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome or ataxia-telangiectasia, the occurrence of acute lymphoblastic leukemia is possible. This is mainly due to the fact that in such patients, the DNA is unable to repair any damage occurring to the chromosomes, resulting in the disturbances caused to the normal growth, division and development of the lymphocyte cells.
A prolonged and excessive exposure to pesticides, industrial chemicals, herbicides, hair dyes and agricultural chemicals is also considered as a potential cause of this leukemia as such chemicals may create mutations in the DNA which trigger the development of the cancer cells in the bone marrow of the body.
6. Viral infections
Human retrovirus called the human T-lymphotropic virus (HTLV-1) and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) are also potential trigger factors that result in the changes in the DNA. The proteins of these viruses attach themselves to the proteins of the lymphocytes. Since the proteins of the lymphocytes are responsible for regulating the growth of the cell, such an attachment prevents the normal growth of the lymphocyte cells resulting in the uncontrolled increase of immature cells as in leukemia.
7. Exposure to benzene
Exposure to benzene can cause acute lymphoblastic leukemia as they result in chromosomal mutations in the bone marrow cells. Benzene is emitted from various industries, particularly oil refineries, rubber industry, chemical plants, shoe industry and gasoline related industries. Besides, water waste from such industries, automobile emissions and even cigarette smoke contain benzene. Thus, the main source of exposure to benzene is in the form of inhaling the contaminated air, though contaminated food and water may also carry benzene to the human body.
8. Chemotherapy drugs
A previous exposure to the use of chemotherapy drugs can result in the eruption of acute lymphoblastic leukemia in future. A high dose of such drugs can corrupt or damage the DNA structures resulting in the development of the cancerous cells which prevent the growth of normal cells in the bone marrow.
The overdose of radiotherapy given to the cancer patients as a part of their treatment is another cause of occurrence of acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The application of the radiations in this therapy may damage the DNA due to translocation of the chromosomes of lymphocyte cells of the bone marrow.
10. Exposure to radiation
A previous exposure to ionizing radiations like the gamma-rays or the X-rays is also a potential cause of this leukemia. Such exposure can affect the cells in pre-natal stage as well when the pregnant mother gets exposed to radiations. Moreover, exposure to high radiation areas like the sites that had faced bomb explosions or other radiation disasters, particularly the nuclear radiations, may also result in lymphoblastic leukemia. Due to the effect of such radiations, the chromosomal mutations are triggered which disrupt the division, development and growth of the cells properly making them cancerous.
11. Chromosomal translocation
The occurrence of chromosomal translocations or rearrangement is an important cause for the occurrence of acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The most common of such chromosomal translocations is t(12;21). Further, the Philadelphia chromosome, t(9;22), and the translocation caused by the fusion of Ikaros gene with BCL6 gene are also significantly observed as the causes of the DNA mutations resulting in the occurrence of this type of cancer.