Blood Cancer Awareness Month 2023: Risk Factors Associated With Blood Cancer

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Blood cancer affecting adults encompasses various malignancies like leukaemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma, characterized by abnormal blood cell production. It poses a significant health issue in India with a high prevalence and mortality rates. While it may not be clear the spot that blood cancer occupies in the hierarchy in the list of Cancers, it is estimated that every 5 minutes someone in the country is diagnosed with the deadly disease. It is also estimated that about 70,000 people succumb to the disease every year. 

According to Dr. Devavrat Arya, who is a Medical Oncologist, Director, Cancer Care / Oncology, at Max Hospital, Saket, New Delhi, “Blood cancer is a type of cancer that affects the blood cells in the body. Our body produces different types of blood cells, viz, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. But in blood cancer, the production of these blood cells is disrupted, and abnormal blood cells start to grow in an uncontrolled way.”

“Symptoms of those afflicted with blood cancer may be similar to those who have contracted other types of cancer. For eg. fatigue, weakness, fever, weight loss. However, in the case of blood cancer, there is also abnormal bleeding or bruising which stands out as a clear symptom of blood cancer,” he added.

Risk Factors Of Blood Cancer:

Talking about the risk factors that cause blood cancer, he said, “Various studies indicate numerous factors as the cause for blood cancer. However, a large chunk of studies narrow down the reasons to a few.” 

  • Smoking: It is estimated that 20% of all acute myeloid leukemia are linked to smoking. Smoking, tobacco chewing and even excessive alcohol consumption is proven to increase the risk of blood cancer. 

  • Family history: Is has been observed that if any close family member has suffered from leukemia, there is a higher possibility / higher risk developing blood cancer. This is particularly true in the case of chronic lymphoid leukemia. Studies have established that the possibility of contracting leukemia increases three or even four fold time if a first-degree relative, viz, mother, brother has developed it. 

  • Genetic syndromes: Blood Cancer is also linked to certain types of genetic abnormalities like Down’s Syndrome, Li Fraumeni Syndrome, etc, 

  • Exposure to Carcinogens: Long term exposure to chemicals like Benzene are established to increase the risk of blood cancer. Some studies have also shown prolonged exposure to asbestos too are considered to be at especially high risk for developing Leukemia. 

  • Chemotherapy and Radiation: Studies have shows that Chemotherapy and exposure to radiation can also damage bone marrow stem cells. This in turn increases the risk of acute of Leukemia (or blood cancer). 

Risk Factors Of Blood Cancer In Adults:

Dr. Sharat Damodar, who is the Chairman – Oncology Services & Oncology Collegium, Clinical Director – MSMC, Senior Consultant & Head of Adult Haematology and BMT at Narayana Health City, Bangalore said that several risk factors are associated with the development of blood cancer in adults.

He then went on to list down a few:

  • Advanced age is a prominent factor, as most cases occur in individuals over 60.
  • Genetic predisposition plays a significant role and a family history of blood cancer can elevate one’s susceptibility.
  • Exposure to ionizing radiation, whether due to medical treatments or occupational hazards, is another risk factor.
  • Moreover, exposure to certain chemicals like benzene, weakened immune systems from conditions such as HIV/AIDS, prior cancer treatments like chemotherapy or radiation, and infections like Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) or human T-cell leukaemia virus (HTLV-1) contribute to the risk.

“Awareness of these factors is crucial for early detection and preventive measures. Adults, especially those with known risk factors, should prioritize regular health check-ups and consult doctors for tailored guidance,” he added.

Risk Factors Of Blood Cancer In Children:

Blood cancer, also known as leukemia, in children is a complex and serious medical condition that impacts the production of blood cells. It occurs when there is an abnormal growth of immature blood cells in the bone marrow. There are different types of blood cancer, including acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

Dr. Chintan Vyas, who is a Consultant – Paediatric Haemato-Oncology & BMT, SRCC- at NH Children’s Hospital, Mumbai said that the risk factors associated with blood cancer in children are multifactorial. 

  • Genetic predisposition in kids plays a significant role, as certain inherited genetic disorders such as Down syndrome and Fanconi anemia increase the risk.
  • Exposure to ionizing radiation, especially during medical treatments like radiation therapy, can also be a risk factor.
  • Other potential risk factors include exposure to certain chemicals, such as benzene, which is found in some household products and industrial settings.
  • Viral infections have also been linked to the development of blood cancer in children.

[Disclaimer: The information provided in the article, including treatment suggestions shared by doctors, is intended for general informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.]

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