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The cause of CML is unknown, but research is going on to find out more.
There are a number of factors that might increase a person’s risk of developing CML but, for most people, it isn’t clear why it develops. The known risk factors include the following:
The risk of developing CML increases slightly with age.
Exposure to very high radiation levels (such as accidental exposure after a nuclear accident like Chernobyl) is known to increase the risk of developing CML. But very few people in the UK are exposed to radiation levels high enough to increase their risk of developing it. For most people with CML, there’s no obvious link to radiation exposure.
Certain chemicals used in industry or found in pesticides may slightly increase the risk of developing CML.
CML isn’t caused by an inherited faulty gene so other members of your family can’t develop it just because you have it.
In recent years, there has been publicity about an increase in leukaemia in people living close to nuclear power plants. Research is still going on to see if there’s a definite link, but as yet there’s no evidence of this.
Also, research hasn’t found any links between exposure to electromagnetic fields, living near high-voltage electricity cables, or household radon and the risk of adults developing CML.
CML, like other cancers, is not infectious and can’t be passed on to other people.
Content last reviewed: 1 February 2012
Next planned review: 2014
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