In many cases, we still don’t know what causes APL. There are no known environmental factors which have been proven to increase the risk of getting APL. You may have a slightly increased risk of getting APL if you’ve been treated for a different cancer or if you’ve received chemotherapy for another condition in the past.
You can get APL at any age. It’s slightly less common in children under 10, but otherwise the likelihood of developing APL is roughly the same across all age groups.
APL is equally common in men and women.
We don’t know of any reported evidence of APL running in families. Occasionally, there are cases where another family member may also have leukaemia or another type of blood cancer, but the cause of this may not be inherited.
Receiving treatment for other cancers
A very small number of patients can develop APL after being treated for another cancer or treatment with chemotherapy for another condition. This type of APL is called treatment related APL (tAPL) and can be caused by certain types of chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
More than half of all cases of tAPL occur in people who have previously been treated for breast cancer, but the overall risk of developing tAPL is still very low. The risk of developing tAPL is highest in the three years after the treatment for the previous cancer.
The treatment for tAPL is generally the same as for other forms of APL, although your specialist may choose to use a different drug in this situation.