Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center

Causes and risks

What causes leukemia in children?

The majority of childhood leukemias are acquired genetic diseases, meaning that gene mutations and chromosome abnormalities in cells occur sporadically (by chance).

The immune system plays an important role in protecting the body from diseases, and possibly cancer. An alteration or defect in the immune system may increase the risk for developing leukemia. Factors such as exposure to certain viruses, environmental factors, chemical exposures and various infections have been associated with damage to the immune system.

With the exception of specific genetic syndromes, little is known about the causes of childhood leukemia.