Leukemia is a disease that affects blood-forming cells in the body. It is a cancerous condition characterized by an abundance of abnormal white blood cells in the body.
Leukemia begins in the bone marrow and spreads to other parts of the body. Both children and adults can develop leukemia.
Types of Leukemia
Leukemia can be divided into four different types. It is first classified as acute or chronic.
In chronic leukemia, the leukemia cells come from mature, abnormal cells. The cells thrive for too long and accumulate. These types of cells slowly multiply.
Acute leukemias, on the other hand, develop from early cells, called "blasts," which are young cells that divide frequently. In acute leukemia cells, they don’t stop dividing like their normal counterparts do.
Myelogenous vs Lymphocytic
After being classified as acute or chronic, it is then classified by the type of cells in which the leukemia started from. It can either be myelogenous or lymphocytic.
Myelogenous leukemia develops from myeloid cells. The disease can either be chronic or acute, referred to as chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) and acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). There are several types of myelogenous leukemia.
Lymphocytic leukemia develops from cells called "lymphoblasts" or "lymphocytes" in the blood marrow. The disease can be acute or chronic, referred to as chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL). There are several types of lymphocytic leukemia.
Causes and Risk Factors of Leukemia
Researchers have identified several causes and risk factors for leukemia. It happens in:
• people older than the age of 60, but it can occur in younger people
• people who smoke
• people who have undergone previous chemotherapy or radiation therapy
• people infected with the human T-cell leukemia virus, a virus that infects T-cells that is spread by sharing syringes and used to inject drugs; through blood transfusions; and from mother to child at birth or through breastfeeding
• people with myelodysplasctic syndrome, a blood disorder
• people with Down syndrome
Symptoms of Leukemia
Leukemia symptoms can occur all of a sudden or gradually. The symptoms are broad, but there are specific signs of leukemia to keep an eye out for:
• excessive bruising
• physical exercise intolerance
• abdominal pain, or generally feeling fullness
• weight loss
• abnormal bleeding
• enlargement of the lymph nodes, spleen and/or liver
Unfortunately, there are no proven leukemia prevention methods. Even more sadly, most of the risk factors cannot be avoided like in other types of cancer. We simply cannot avoid aging or having conditions like Down’s Syndrome. There are some risk factors we can avoid that may aid in leukemia risk reduction, like not smoking. If you smoke cigarettes, now is the time to quit.
Smoking puts you at risk for many types of cancer, including acute myelogenous leukemia. 1 in every 4 cases of AML is linked to smoking.
Reducing your exposure to benzene may reduce your risk of developing leukemia. Benzene is a chemical by product of coal and petroleum, used mainly is gasoline. It is also contained in other things such as paints, solvents, plastics, pesticides and detergents. People who work in the manufacturing of these products may be putting themselves at risk for leukemia.
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