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Does Anemia Cause Leukemia?

Medically reviewed by John Paul Abrina, MD · Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital


Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Sep 20, 2022

Does Anemia Cause Leukemia?

Anemia is a condition where there are low levels of red blood cells or hemoglobin. Leukemia, on the other hand, is a type of cancer affecting the tissues that form blood cells, like the bone marrow. Considering these two both affect the blood, some people are asking, Does anemia cause leukemia? What’s the link between these two conditions?

Does Anemia Cause Leukemia?

If you’re wondering, Does anemia cause leukemia?, you don’t have to worry. There’s no evidence that it does. 

As mentioned before, anemia is a condition where a person has lower-than-normal red blood cells or hemoglobin. It results in various symptoms, including pallor (paleness), fatigue, weight loss, shortness of breath, and cold hands and feet. It doesn’t lead to leukemia or any other form of cancer. 

However, anemia can be a symptom of leukemia. 

How Does Leukemia Cause Anemia? 

Now that we have answered the question, Does anemia cause leukemia?, let’s talk about how leukemia can lead to anemia. 

Leukemia has many types, but a common denominator is that it causes an increased production of white blood cells. Generally, what happens is that the white blood cells produced are incapable of protecting the body. Hence, the brain mistakenly believes it needs to produce more. 

The rapid, increased production of white blood cells interferes with the bone marrow’s ability to produce healthy blood cells, like RBCs. This can then lead to anemia. 

Is There Another Link Between Anemia And Cancer?

Another link between cancer and anemia has something to do with the treatment. Reports say treatment, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy can lead to side effects, like low levels of red blood cells. This too can lead to anemia. 

When Should You Seek Medical Help? 

Does anemia cause leukemia? No. But, can leukemia lead to anemia? Yes, it can. The question now is, when should you seek medical help? 

Remember to visit your doctor if you develop the signs and symptoms of anemia and/or leukemia. 

Common Signs and Symptoms of Anemia

Anemia has many types, but it generally results in the following signs and symptoms:

  • Fast heartbeat
  • Pallor
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Sore tongue
  • Unintentional movement of the legs (restless leg syndrome)

Common Signs and Symptoms of Leukemia 

Like anemia, leukemia has many types, but generally leads to:

  • Frequent infections
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Recurrent nosebleeds 
  • Getting bruised easily
  • Excessive sweating (especially at night)
  • Swollen lymph nodes 
  • Large spleen and liver 
  • Fever and chills 

Reminders

If you have the symptoms of anemia, please don’t immediately associate it with leukemia. Remember that it can be caused by many things. Some people are born with the condition (congenital), while others develop it (acquired). 

Below are some of the possible causes of anemia:

  • Nutrient deficiencies. Deficiencies in vitamins and iron may result in anemia. 
  • Thalassemia, a condition where you have fewer hemoglobin than usual. 
  • Bleeding. If you have bleeding, you might lose blood cells faster than you can produce them, leading to anemia. 
  • Other health conditions, like tuberculosis, malaria, and parasitic infections are also associated with anemia. 

Even if you only suspect anemia, please still go to the doctor. You might have a type of anemia that needs further assessment or treatment in the form of medications or even blood transfusion. 

Key Takeaways

Does anemia cause leukemia? Experts say it doesn’t. But leukemia and its treatment can lead to anemia. 
However, don’t immediately associate anemia with leukemia. After all, there are many possible causes. Chances are, if you have anemia, you may be experiencing micronutrient deficiencies (vitamin B, iron, etc.). Still, even if you only suspect anemia and not leukemia, please consult your doctor for diagnosis and treatment. You might need medical treatment in the form of medications.

Learn more about Leukemia here

Disclaimer

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

John Paul Abrina, MD

Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital


Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Sep 20, 2022

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