When you’re diagnosed with any cancer, one of the first things you might think is: why me?
With CLL, there are no clear reasons other than things like age and gender. Here’s what we do know:
- CLL is the most common type of leukaemia in adults.
- Of all people diagnosed with leukaemia, around a third are diagnosed with CLL.
- About one person in 200 will develop CLL at some point in their life.
People who get CLL are usually in their 70s or older. It’s very rare for people under 40 to get CLL, but about 10% of patients are under 55 when diagnosed. Children don’t get CLL.
Men are about twice as likely as women to get it – we don’t know why.
A parent, child, brother or sister of someone with CLL has a slightly higher chance than others of developing the condition, but the risk for any individual is still very low.
Because of this, experts don’t recommend testing family members unless they’re being considered as donors for a stem cell transplant – which is rare for people with CLL.
CLL is more common in white people – we don’t know why.
Monoclonal B-cell lymphocytosis
There’s a condition called monoclonal B-cell lymphocytosis (MBL) where people have very low levels of CLL-like cells in their blood, but no symptoms.
Not all people with MBL go on to get CLL. However, we think that most people diagnosed with CLL previously had MBL, possibly for many years.
Experts don’t recommend testing family members for MBL unless they’re being considered as donors for a stem cell transplant.
Radiation and chemicals
There have been some suggestions that exposure to radiation or certain chemicals may increase your risk of developing CLL, but this link hasn’t been proven.