Childhood Leukemia

Childhood Leukemia and Cells

In childhood leukemia, the bone marrow produces abnormal white blood cells, which are leukemia cells. At first, leukemia cells function almost normally. However, in time, they may crowd out normal white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets, which makes it hard for blood to do its work.

Types of Leukemia

The different types of leukemia are grouped by how quickly the disease develops and gets worse (chronic versus acute). The types of leukemia are also categorized by which blood cells are affected (lymphoid versus myeloid).
Based on the aggressiveness of the disease and the blood cells that are affected, there are four common types of leukemia:
Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML) are the most common types of childhood leukemia. While a child may develop chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) or chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), these types of leukemia are rarely seen in children.

Causes and Risk Factors

No one knows the exact causes of childhood leukemia. Doctors can seldom explain why one person will get childhood leukemia and another person will not. However, leukemia research has shown that people with certain risk factors are more likely than others to develop childhood leukemia. A risk factor is anything that increases a person's chances of developing a disease.
Childhood ALL risk factors include:
  • Having a brother or sister with leukemia
  • Being Caucasian or Hispanic
  • Living in the United States
  • Being exposed to x-rays before birth
  • Being exposed to radiation
  • Past treatment with chemotherapy or other drugs that weaken the immune system
  • Having certain genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome.
Childhood AML risk factors include:
  • Having a brother or sister, especially a twin, with leukemia
  • Being Hispanic
  • Being exposed to cigarette smoke or alcohol before birth
  • Having a history of myelodysplastic syndrome
  • Past treatment with chemotherapy or radiation therapy
  • Being exposed to ionizing radiation or chemicals such as benzene
  • Having certain genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome.
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Child Leukemia

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