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Ask the Expert: Do You Know of a Genetic Link Regarding CLL?

This content was current as of the date it was released. In science and medicine, information is constantly changing and may become out-of-date as new data emerge.


Several weeks ago, I was diagnosed with CLL. Today, my oncologist, told me I am in Stage 1. Ironically, my sister was diagnosed with CLL about two-years ago. She is 81 and I am 73. She has started treatment. We were raised in Martinez, California – Shell Oil Company has (had) a refinery about one-mile from our house. There were at least two other refineries in the east Bay Area at the time. I have four questions:

  • Do you know of a genetic link regarding CLL?
  • Do you know of a link between chemical plants/oil refineries and CLL?
  • My oncologist/hematologist has suggested I look at genetic counseling. She says it will not help her treat my disease, but it may help provide information for our three children. What are your thoughts about genetic counseling for CLL patients?
  • I had both doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Given the Delta variant, do you have any guidance about COVID, vaccines, and our immune systems? My doctor says the data is limited, so be cautious. What about church, restaurants, travel, etc.?

Answer: Chronic lymphocytic leukemia has not generally been considered to have an inherited genetic basis. However, there is indirect evidence that a small subset of CLL cases may be ascribed to the inheritance of an autosomal dominant gene.