Acute Myeloid Leukemia: Etiology

luekemiaAcute myeloid leukemia (AML) is caused by damage to the DNA of developing cells in your bone marrow, causing blood cell production to go awry. The bone marrow produces immature cells that develop into leukemic white blood cells called myeloblasts. Because these abnormal cells are unable to function properly, they can build up and crowd out healthy cells. Most DNA changes related to AML occur during a person’s lifetime, rather than having been inherited before birth. In most cases, it is not clear what causes the DNA mutations that lead to leukemia; however, radiation, exposure to certain chemicals and some chemotherapy drugs are known risk factors for AML. They seem to happen more often as we age, which might help explain why AML usually occurs in older people.


mutationMutations in specific genes are found in many cases of AML, but larger changes in one or more chromosomes are also common. Although these changes involve larger pieces of DNA, their effects are most likely caused by changes in just one or a few genes that are on that part of the chromosome. There are several types of chromosome changes that may be found in AML cells. They are as follows:

1. Translocations are the most common type of DNA change that can lead to leukemia. This means that a part of one chromosome breaks off and becomes attached to a different chromosome, and where the breakage occurs can affect nearby genes.

2. Deletions are another type of chromosome change. This occurs when part of a chromosome is lost, which can result in the cell losing a gene that helped keep its growth in

3. Inversions are a third type of chromosome change. This occurs when part of a chromosome gets turned around, resulting in it now being in reverse order. This can lead to the loss of a gene, or genes, because the cell can no longer “read its instructions”.

4. Lastly, Additional or duplication of chromosomes means that there is an extra chromosome or part of a chromosome, resulting in too many copies of certain genes within the cell.


Some people with certain types of cancer have inherited DNA mutations from a parent that increase their risk for the disease. Some congenital disorders that predispose patients to AML include Bloom syndrome, Down syndrome, congenital neutropenia, and neurofibromatosis. Usually, these patients develop AML during childhood, however, some may present in young adulthood.


If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with AML as a result of radiation, chemical or other type of exposure, you may be entitled to compensation. The attorneys at Madeksho Law Firm, PLLC have been litigating these types of cases for decades, and have extensive experience in this area.