Leukemia: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

Leukemia is a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow. It is one of the most common cancers in the United States, with approximately 61,000 new cases diagnosed each year. This disease can affect both adults and children, making it a significant concern for many. Understanding and know how to recognize this type of cancer is crucial. Diagnosing it sooner improves the chances of getting better.


Causes of Leukemia

Leukemia affects the blood and bone marrow, where blood cells are made. In this case, the body produces abnormal blood cells that grow and divide uncontrollably. These abnormal cells crowd out healthy blood cells, making it hard for the body to work properly. The two most common causes are genetic factors and exposure to high levels of radiation. Genetic factors mean that some people inherit changes in their DNA that increase their risk of getting leukemia. Exposure to high levels of radiation, such as from nuclear accidents or radiation therapy for other cancers, can damage the DNA in blood cells, leading to this type of cancer. Other causes include:

  1. Chemical Exposure: Contact with certain chemicals like benzene can increase the risk.
  2. Smoking: Tobacco smoke contains harmful chemicals that can cause mutations in blood cells.
  3. Previous Cancer Treatments: Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can sometimes lead to leukemia later in life.
  4. Certain Medical Conditions: Some genetic disorders, like Down syndrome, are linked to a higher risk of leukemia.
  5. Family History: Having a close relative with leukemia can increase the risk, though this is less common.

Are There Different Types?

There are different types of leukemia. This table gives an easy-to-read overview about the different types. It shows how quickly each type progresses, which blood cells are affected, the age group most commonly affected, and how many new cases are diagnosed each year in the United States. Note: These estimates provide a general idea of how common each type of leukemia is in the United States.

Type of Leukemia Progression Affected Cells Most Common Age Group Chance of Getting This Type in America
Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) Rapid Lymphoid cells Children About 6,000 new cases per year
Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) Rapid Myeloid cells Adults and children About 20,000 new cases per year
Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) Slow Lymphoid cells Older adults About 21,000 new cases per year
Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML) Slow Myeloid cells Adults About 8,500 new cases per year

Continue reading on the next page and discover, among others, how you can recognize this type of cancer (even in early stages).

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