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Chronic lymphocytic leukemia

The etiology of CLL is unclear. However, some factors associated with CLL have been identified.

Genetic factors

There is a high familial risk for CLL with family members of CLL patients (2 to 7 times).

CLL with a familial association tends to occur in younger age groups with subsequent generations, perhaps because of increased screening. Association with certain HLA patterns has not been consistent.

Environmental factors

There is no documented association of CLL with exposure to radiation, alkylating agents, or known leukemogenic chemicals.

However, exposure to some chemicals used in agriculture may increase the risk of developing CLL.

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Viral infections

No conclusive evidence of a causal relationship exists. Associations between CLL and several viruses including:

  • Human T-cell lymphotrophic viruses I and II (HTLV-I and HTLV-II)
  • Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)

Adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma, a T-cell disorder that can resemble CLL, is caused by HTLV-I.

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