Etiology

The etiology of leukemia is at present unknown. The basic question is what causes a healthy cell to change to become malignant and to proliferate in that state. The consensus of opinion is that the disease results from the interaction of a number of factors, including environmental agents, and investigations are being pursued on the following:

1. Genetic factors, involving chromosomal abnormalities and changes.

2. Disorders of the immune system (the body's defense system against infection).

3. Exposure to ionizing radiation from a single large dose or from repeated small doses.

4. Chemicals that suppress bone marrow function.

5. Infection - viruses: Retroviruses are known to cause leukemia and lymphomas in certain animal species but not in humans, although recently a type of RNA virus has been isolated from patients with adult T cell leukemia known as human T cell leukemia virus HTLV1.

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