Risks and causes of chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML)

We don’t know what causes most cases of chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML). But we do know that exposure to radiation can increase your risk of developing CML.

Having this risk factor doesn't mean that you will definitely develop cancer.


If you have had radiotherapy for cancer before, this could increase your risk of developing CML. This risk is very small compared to the benefit of radiotherapy treating the cancer.

Some studies show radiation can increase your risk of CML. Researchers found that atomic bomb survivors had an increased risk of leukaemia. There is a 20 year study of the workers who cleaned up after the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident in 1986. It showed that even at low doses of radiation there is an increased risk of all types of leukaemia. 

Last reviewed: 
29 Jun 2022
Next review due: 
29 Jun 2025
  • Radiation-induced malignancies following radiotherapy for breast cancer
    R Roychoudhuri and others
    British Journal of Cancer, 2004, Volume 91, Issue 5, Pages 868-72

  • Radiation and the risk of chronic lymphocytic and other leukemias among chornobyl cleanup workers
    L Zablotska and others
    Environmental Health Perspectives, 2013, Volume 121, Issue 1, Pages 59-65

Related links