Medical Q&As

Leukaemia - inherited?

Is leukaemia a disease that can only be inherited or is it acquired?

Leukaemia is the medical name for cancer of the blood. It is an acquired condition and is not inherited. However there are a number of situations where a genetic factor may be at work. If an identical twin has leukaemia there is a 25% risk that the other twin will also develop the condition. The risk is also increased in the form of Down’s syndrome caused by trisomy 21 i.e. the particular form of Down’s syndrome that is due to the presence of three chromosomes number 21 rather than the normal complement of two. There is also an increased risk of leukaemia in people with Fanconi’s anaemia, which is a rare inherited disorder of the bone marrow. These three conditions apart most cases of leukaemia occur sporadically in the absence of a family history of the condition. You can learn more about leukaemia by reading our special feature on the disease: