What you do, what you eat, and how you handle stress impact your overall state of well-being.

Leukemia is relatively rare compared to most other cancers, and is currently the 11th most common. According to the SEER 2008-2010 data, about 1.4 percent of men and women will be diagnosed with leukemia at some point during their lifetime.[1]

Although rare compared to other cancers, acute leukemia is the most common cancer among children.

The 5 year survival rate of leukemia (overall) is 57.2%.

Leukemia can be classified into 2 basic groups—the acute and the chronic leukemias.  Acute types include: Acute myeloid leukemia (AML), Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), and Adult T-cell Leukemia/Lymphoma. Chronic leukemias include Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), and Hairy Cell leukemia. Leukemia is a type of blood cancer that begins in the bone marrow and affects the white blood cells or leukocytes (which include neutrophils, basophils, eosinophils, monocytes, and lymphocytes).

Maintain a healthy body weight, as obesity can worsen the prognosis of leukemia, and increase drug resistance.[2]

Causes/Contributing Factors

Among the most well-established risk factors include:

  1. A history of leukemia in the family, particularly a first degree relative.
  2. Treatment for other cancers that used chemotherapy and radiation, especially as a child.
  3. Additionally exposure to radiation in the environment as found in certain industries and from x-rays.[3][4]
  4. Exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). A human trial looked at PAH exposure and risk of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) using concentrations in residential dust as an exposure indicator, and it was found that ALL risk was increased with higher exposure to PAHs.[5]
  5. Leukemia occurs in clusters, which suggests that outbreaks of infections, especially in children, may be a contributing cause of the disease. It is also likely that a pre-existing immune abnormality exists, and exposure to infection is only a surrogate for immune stimulation.[6]

Other risk factors include:

  1. Genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome, are associated with increased risk of leukemia.
  2. Having a diagnosis of certain blood disorders, such as myelodysplastic syndromes, is associated with an increased risk of leukemia.
  3. Smoking cigarettes increases the risk of several types of leukemia, and may be influenced by specific gene variants.[7][8]
Move away from areas of high radiation, such as near power plants and limit X-ray exposure.

Relevant Diagnostic Testing

Labs will likely be ordered by your physician to assess red and white blood cell status and platelet count.

If leukemia is suspected then a bone marrow aspiration and biopsy may be performed, which is a test that looks for malignant cells in the bone marrow as well as certain changes in the cell chromosomes from a sample of blood or bone marrow (cytogenetic analysis).

A test to look for genes that are “turned on” in several types of leukemia, such as acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) called reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction test, or RT-PCR.

A test that compares the cancerous cells to normal blood cells to find the specific kind of leukemia, or immunophenotyping.

Incorporate regular physical activity – the risk for cardiovascular disease is increased in survivors of leukemia, but may be mitigated by regular exercise.[9][10]

Dietary Action Plan


  1. Brightly colored, fresh vegetables, leafy greens and fresh fruits (choose organic if possible)
  2. Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, which have high levels of DIM & isothiocyanates
  3. Whole foods (foods that are as close to their natural form as possible)
  4. Low sugar/low glycemic diet (Glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL) are measures of the effect on blood glucose level after a food containing carbohydrates is consumed)
  5. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in cold water fish such as sardines, wild-caught salmon, cod, mackerel, tuna
  6. High fiber, from whole grains, beans, vegetables and fruits
  7. Healthy fats, from avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, coconut oil, cold water fish
  8. For animal protein, choose lean poultry and fish over red meat, and aim to view meat as a condiment rather than a staple. Try to choose grass fed and organic meats and eggs whenever possible. Eat no fish larger than a salmon to minimize environmental contaminants, including mercury.


  1. Processed and grilled meats. Also, try to limit intake of red meat
  2. Fast foods, fried foods, baked goods and packaged, processed foods
  3. Sugar, sweeteners  and artificial sweeteners
  4. Vegetable oils, shortening, margarine and anything with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils
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Leukemia Supplement Program

Multiple nutritional supplements have been associated with reduced cancer incidence and/or cancer progression. The list below contains those with the greatest evidence-base and benefit, though it is not necessary that they all be included.

Supplement Info



  • Vitamin D3
  • Grape Seed Extract
  • Cordyceps
  • DIM & Isothiocyanates
  • Curcumin
  • Olive Leaf Extract
  • Green Tea Extract
  • Milk Thistle
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[1] http://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/leuks.html Accessed August 2014

[2] Sheng X1, Mittelman SD2. The role of adipose tissue and obesity in causing treatment resistance of acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Front Pediatr. 2014 Jun 5;2:53. doi: 10.3389/fped.2014.00053. eCollection 2014.

[3] Shih TY, Wu J, Muo CS, Kao CH. Association between leukaemia and X-ray in children: A nationwide study. J Paediatr Child Health. 2014 Aug;50(8):615-8. doi: 10.1111/jpc.12605. Epub 2014 Jun 9.

[4] Gillies M, Haylock R. The cancer mortality and incidence experience of workers at British Nuclear Fuels plc, 1946-2005. J Radiol Prot. 2014 Jul 22;34(3):595-623.

[5] Deziel NC, Rull RP, Colt JS, Reynolds P, Whitehead TP, Gunier RB, Month SR, Taggart DR, Buffler P, Ward MH, Metayer C. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in residential dust and risk of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Environ Res. 2014 Aug;133:388-95. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2014.04.033. Epub 2014 Jun 17.

[6] Wiemels J. Perspectives on the causes of childhood leukemia. Chem Biol Interact. 2012 Apr 5;196(3):59-67. doi: 10.1016/j.cbi.2012.01.007. Epub 2012 Feb 2.

[7] Milne E1, Greenop KR, Scott RJ, et al. Parental prenatal smoking and risk of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Am J Epidemiol. 2012 Jan 1;175(1):43-53. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwr275.

[8] Lee KM1, Ward MH, Han S, et al. Paternal smoking, genetic polymorphisms in CYP1A1 and childhood leukemia risk. Leuk Res. 2009 Feb;33(2):250-8. doi: 10.1016/j.leukres.2008.06.031. Epub 2008 Aug 8.

[9] Järvelä LS1, Niinikoski H, Heinonen OJ, et al. Endothelial function in long-term survivors of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia: effects of a home-based exercise program. Pediatr Blood Cancer. 2013 Sep;60(9):1546-51. doi: 10.1002/pbc.24565. Epub 2013 Apr 20.

[10] Chiang J, Huang YW, Chen ML, Wang SY, Huang AC, Chen YJ. Comparison of anti-leukemic immunity against U937 cells in endurance athletes versus sedentary controls. Int J Sports Med. 2000 Nov;21(8):602-7.

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