Leukemia facts

Copyright 1998 Columbus Dispatch
October 4, 1998

Leukemia, cancer of the bone marrow and blood, is characterized by the uncontrolled growth of blood cells. There are four main types:

Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) results from genetic damage to the DNA of developing cells in the bone marrow. Risk factors include exposure to radiation and benzene; chemotherapy used to treat breast or ovarian cancer and lymphomas; and genetic disorders such as Down syndrome.

Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) results from an acquired genetic injury to the DNA of a single cell in the bone marrow. It is the most common form of the disease in children. Risk factors to children include exposures to infectious or toxic agents during fetal development or early childhood.

Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) results from an injury to the DNA of a stem cell in the marrow leading to the uncontrolled growth of white cells. Adults over the age of 30 represent 98 percent of the CML cases diagnosed. Risk factors include radiation.

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) results from a malignant disorder involving a progressive accumulation of small, mature-appearing lymphocytes in blood lymph nodes, spleen and bone marrow. There seems to be no direct link to radiation, but this form of leukemia has been associated with farming and rubber manufacturing.

Prevalence: Leukemia represents 2 percent of all the adult cancers and a third of all childhood cancers. In 1998, leukemia will be diagnosed in an estimated 26,500 adults and 2,200 children in the United States.

Symptoms: Fatigue, paleness, weight loss, repeated infections, bruising and nosebleeds

Treatment: Chemotherapy and bone-marrow transplants

Five-year survival rate: For children, 80 percent; for adults, 42 percent. During the past 20 years, leukemia death rates have dropped 5.1 percent, largely because of the strides made in treatment.

Chemicals and solvents linked to leukemia: benzene, pesticides, arsenic, chromium, butadiene, dioxin, ethylene oxide, heptachlor, herbicides, hydrazine, mycotoxins, perchloroethylene, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), toluene, tetrachloroethylene, trichloroethylene, trinitrotoluene

Sources: Leukemia Society of America, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency

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