Leukemia: Types and Causes

Leukemia is a type of cancer that affects the white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelet formation in the bone marrow. The condition results in overproduction of white blood cells more than the amount necessary for healthy body function thus resulting in a number of health complications. The excess white blood cell count can block the production and flow of essential red blood cells and platelets necessary for optimal body function.

There are no direct causes of leukemia. However, there are multiple risk factors linked to the following types of chronic and acute types of leukemia:

1. Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML)
Alternatively also known as Chronic myelogenous leukemia, chronic granulocytic leukemia, and chronic myelocytic leukemia, it is not a life-threatening condition. CML is one of the primary types of leukemia that develops due to a genetic mutation in the DNA of the bone marrow. The mutation forces the CML cells to grow out of control affecting the growth of red blood cells, white blood cells, and blood platelets. However, the interference does not necessarily result in a severe health complication. Diagnosis is possible only in the chronic phase and the condition can be easily managed with timely medical care. Hematologists and oncologists can treat patients suffering from different stages of the condition with oral medication and therapy. Gender, age, and exposure to radiation are some of the risk factors that increase the chances of developing chronic myeloid leukemia.

2. Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)
AML is a type of cancer that affects the bone marrow and blood. The condition is progressive in nature and primarily targets cells that have not yet fully developed. AML is the result of a genetic mutation that damages the DNA of the healthy stem cells comprising of the red blood cells, white blood cells, and blood platelets. The rapid multiplication of cancerous cells due to acute myeloid leukemia can block the production of normal cells and grow out of control in a short span of time. Exposure to certain chemicals, complications of genetic disorders, chemotherapy, radiation treatments, and blood cancer disorders increase the risk of suffering from AML. Complications include anemia, neutropenia, thrombocytopenia, and pancytopenia. In such cases, leukemia affects the count of red and white blood cells that can cause fatigue, shortness of breath, easy bruising due to a low count of healthy platelets, and affect the immune system’s ability to effectively tackle external attacks.

3. Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)
Alternatively referred to as acute lymphocytic leukemia, the cancer of the bone marrow primarily affects healthy blood cells and the immune system. The rapid multiplication of cancerous cells will result in leukemic lymphoblasts that interfere with the normal function of stem cells, block the active production of normal cells, and grow faster than the immune response can tackle the condition. The condition can also develop in the prenatal years (in utero) and is usually diagnosable in the first in infancy or in some cases, the first few years after birth. There are multiple risk factors associated with ALL including exposure to high levels of radiation during therapy, exposure to chemotherapy for cancer treatment, and genetic disorders.


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