Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL)

There are four major types of leukemia: acute myeloid leukemia (AML), chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), however, ALL is the most common in children and the least common in adults. ALL can occur at any age, but it occurs most frequently in people under the age of 15. Over 6,000 people are diagnosed with ALL each year, and children account for approximately 4,000 of those cases.

WHAT IS ACUTE LYMPHOCYTIC LEUKEMIA?

Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), also called acute lymphoblastic leukemia and acute lymphoid leukemia, is a blood cancer that results when the bone marrow makes too many immature lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. ALL progresses rapidly, replacing healthy mature cells that produce functional lymphocytes with abnormal leukemia cells. The leukemia cells travel through the bloodstream to other organs and tissues, including the brain, liver, and lymph nodes, where they continue to spread.

MECHANISM OF ALL DEVELOPMENT

ALL occurs when a bone marrow cell develops errors in its DNA, although it is not clear what causes the DNA mutations that lead to ALL. The errors tell the cell to continue growing and dividing, when a healthy cell would normally stop dividing and eventually die. Some cases of ALL involve a mutation in a lymphocyte that occurs during the prenatal period (in utero). The leukemia is usually diagnosed in infancy; however, years may pass before the disorder appears.

RISK FACTORS

There are certain factors that may increase the risk of ALL, including previous cancer treatments, exposure to radiation, genetic disorders, and having a sibling with ALL.

Benzene Exposure

People exposed to benzene and benzene-containing solvents have an increased risk of leukemias, including ALL.

Previous Cancer Treatment

Children and adults who have had certain types of chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy for other types of cancer may have an increased risk of developing ALL.

Exposure to Radiation

People exposed to very high levels of radiation, such as survivors of a nuclear reactor accident, have an increased possibility of developing ALL.

Genetic Disorders

Certain genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome, are associated with an increased risk of acute lymphocytic leukemia.

Sibling with ALL

People who have a sibling, including a twin, with ALL have an increased risk of developing the disorder.

SYMPTOMS

There are several common leukemia symptoms that most victims of the disorder will experience. These symptoms include fever, frequent infections, frequent/severe nosebleeds, bone pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, and lumps caused by swollen lymph nodes.