Genetic factors

Persons with extra chromosomes (genetic material contained in cells) or certain chromosomal abnormalities have a greater chance of developing leukemia. Children with Down syndrome, neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1), Shwachman syndrome, Bloom syndrome, Franconi anemia, Kostmann syndrome, and ataxia telangiectasia have a higher risk of getting leukemia than do children without these genetic disorders. However, most children with these syndromes do not develop leukemia.

In cases where one identical twin has leukemia before the age of 6, the other twin has a 25 percent chance of developing the disease within one year. The risk for the second twin is less if the sibling with the disease is older when diagnosed. Recent data suggest that this high degree of risk is due to connection of the circulation (blood vessels) in identical twins while in the womb. In fraternal (non-identical twins), there is minimal if any increased risk of leukemia developing in both twins.

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