University expert says “avoid increased doses of radiation” as she talks about leukaemia

Venishree Nundkissor

While there is no way to prevent leukaemia, an expert from the University’s Department of Biomedical Sciences has warned that people should avoid increased doses of radiation, exposure to the chemical benzene, smoking and other tobacco use. Venishree Nundkissor, a Lecturer in the department, speaking in the University’s radio on 7 September 2023, in acknowledging September as Cancer Month, said that the causes of acute leukaemia may be idiopathic “meaning that it is unknown what caused the patient to spontaneously develop leukaemia. Although, there are some predisposing factors like exposure to intense radiation, exposure to certain chemicals, such as benzene and viruses like the Human T-Cell leukaemia virus. Chronic myeloid leukaemia is diagnosed in patients who have an abnormal chromosome called the Philadelphia chromosome plus this is linked to exposure to high levels of radiation”. Nundkissor also said that there could be hereditary cases of defective genes responsible for the mutated stem cells that give rise to these abnormal cells.

Nundkissor explained leukaemia as a type of cancer affecting the cells that circulate in the blood. Nundkissor said that there are two types of leukaemia that exist. “There is chronic leukaemia, broken down into chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, and chronic myeloid leukaemia; and acute broken leukaemia, down into acute lymphocytic leukaemia and acute myeloid leukaemia.” Nundkissor said some people do not display any signs or symptoms that they have leukaemia. She said that common symptoms include fever or chills, fatigue, weakness, frequent infections, losing weight without trying, swollen lymph nodes, enlarged liver or spleen, easy bleeding or bruising, nosebleeds, tiny red spots on the skin. According to Nundkissor, most of the leukaemias affect people over 65 years old. However, the Acute Lymphocytic Leukaemia occurs mostly in patients less than 20 years old, she said.

Nundkissor said that according to the 2020 World Health Organisation statistics, leukaemia deaths claim less than half a percent of the total cancer deaths in South Africa. “That is 1,500 deaths, bearing in mind that these are only reported cases. Many  South Africans are unaware of leukaemia as they can be asymptomatic until it is too late and they suddenly pass  away,” Nundkissor said.