Published on March 11, 2020
One of the first questions nearly every newly diagnosed patient asks is whether they were genetically predisposed to develop acute myeloid leukemia (AML). They are worried for their family members and want to know if this was “in the genes”. In the case of AML, the answer is likely no—the major risk factor associated with most cancers is age. This is the reason that most cancer screenings: mammograms, prostate cancer screening, colonoscopies, are all recommended at a certain age.
So How Did I Develop AML?
As we age, our bone marrow cells also age and can acquire age-related mutations. Over time, these mutations can contribute to bone marrow-related problems, including the development of acute myeloid leukemia.
Is There a Chance That AML Is Hereditary?
In a small percentage of individuals, particularly younger patients, there is a chance that an inherited genetic factor may have contributed to specific mutations. For this reason, developing a family history is becoming the standard protocol, especially if there is a family history of blood cancers. Genetic counseling can help patients by identifying a genetic pattern—for example, low platelets or other blood cell abnormalities—and understanding their unique family situation better.
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