Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

(Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia; ALL)

Definition

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is a cancer of the white blood cells in the bone marrow. The white blood cells (lymphocytes) grow in the bone marrow, then travel throughout the body to fight infections.ALL also causes the bone marrow to make too many of these cells. The overgrowth makes it difficult for other blood cells like red blood cells or platelets to develop. Low levels of other blood cells can cause a variety of symptoms such as bleeding problems, fatigue and shortness of breath.
White Blood Cells
White Blood Cells
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Causes

The cause of ALL is unknown. Many cancers are believed to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Risk Factors

ALL is more common in white males. It is also more likely to occur in children and adults over 70 years of age. Other factors that may increase your chance of ALL include:
  • Previous chemo- or radiation therapy treatment
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals such as pesticides or benzene (common in agriculture, dye works, and paint manufacturing and use)
  • Exposure to atomic bomb radiation or nuclear reactor accident
  • Certain genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome , Bloom syndrome, Fanconi's anemia, ataxia-telangiectasia, neurofibromatosis , Shwachman syndrome, IgA deficiency, and congenital X-linked agammaglobulinemia
Factors that may increase the chance of ALL in children only include:
  • Having a brother or sister with leukemia
  • Exposure to x-rays before birth
  • Exposure to radiation, including X-rays and CT scans
  • Previous chemotherapy or other treatment that weakens the immune system

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