- Leukemia is often thought of as primarily a childhood disease because it represents the largest number of childhood cancer cases and is the primary cause of cancer-related deaths of children in the United States. However, leukemia affects many more adults than children. More than 34,000 new leukemia cases were expected in the past year.
- Acute lymphocytic leukemia accounts for approximately 2,180 of the 2,790 newly diagnosed cases of leukemia among children.
- In adults, the most common types are acute myeloid leukemia (approximately 11,000 cases) and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (approximately 8,900 cases).
Leukemia is cancer of the blood cells. The blood is made up of fluid called plasma and three types of cells, each with special functions:
- White blood cells (also called WBCs or leukocytes) help the body fight infections and other diseases.
- Red blood cells (also called RBCs or erythrocytes) carry oxygen from the lungs to the body's tissues and take carbon dioxide from the tissues back to the lungs. The red blood cells give blood its color.
- Platelets (also called thrombocytes) help form blood clots that control bleeding.
Blood cells are formed in the bone marrow – the soft, spongy center of bones. New (immature) blood cells are called blasts. Some blasts stay in the marrow to mature. Some travel to other parts of the body to mature.
Normally, blood cells are produced in an orderly, controlled way, as the body needs them. This process helps keep us healthy. When leukemia develops, the body produces large numbers of abnormal blood cells. In most types of leukemia, the abnormal cells are white blood cells. The leukemia cells usually look different from normal blood cells, and they do not function properly.
Please use the following links to access comprehensive leukemia information provided by the National Cancer Institute from its PDQ® Database.
Learn more about Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia...
Learn more about Adult Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia...
Learn more about Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia...
Learn more about Adult Acute Myeloid Leukemia...
Additional information about chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is available from the CLL Research Consortium (CRC), a multi-institution program sponsored by the National Cancer Institute to study CLL. At OSU, cancer investigators Michael Grever, MD, and John Byrd, MD, are involved with a CRC project examining novel pharmacologic agents in CLL.