Leukemia, causes and treatment

Leukemia is a cancer that affects blood cells or bone marrow. Bone marrow produces blood cells and leukemia can develop due to a problem with the production of blood cells, which usually affects leukocytes, or white blood cells.

Leukemia is likely to affect people over the age of 55, but it is also the most common and common type of cancer in those under the age of 15.

In a study conducted by the National Cancer Institute, 61,780 people received a diagnosis of leukemia in 2019. They also predicted 22,840 deaths in the same year from this type of cancer.

Acute leukemia develops and worsens rapidly, but chronic leukemia worsens over time. There are also several different types of leukemia, and the best course of treatment and the chance of survival depends on the type of treatment the patient suffers from.

In general, leukemia is thought to occur when some blood cells acquire mutations in their DNA – instructions within each cell directing their action. There may be other changes in cells that are not yet fully understood and can contribute to leukemia.

Some abnormalities cause the cell to grow, split more quickly and continue to live when normal cells die. Over time, these abnormal cells can crowd healthy blood cells in the bone marrow, resulting in fewer healthy white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets, causing signs and symptoms of leukemia.


Treatment of leukemia depends on a person’s health status and degree of development. Leukemia develops when the DNA of developing blood cells, especially white cells, damages them. This causes blood cells to grow and divide uncontrollably. Healthy blood cells then die, replaced by new cells. which may have evolved in the bone marrow.

Abnormal blood cells do not die at a normal point in their life cycle. Instead, they grow and occupy more space than normal cells.

When bone marrow produces more cancer cells, it begins to crowd the blood, preventing healthy white blood cells from growing and functioning normally. In the end, the number of cancer cells exceeds healthy cells in the blood.

Risk factors

There are a range of risk factors . Some of these risk factors have more important links to this cancer than others:

Artificial ionizing radiation: This can include receiving radiation therapy for a previous cancer, although this is a more important risk factor for some other species.

Some viruses: Some viruses can be directly linked to leukemia

Chemotherapy: People who have received chemotherapy for a previous cancer are usually more likely to develop it later in life.

Benzene exposure: A solvent used by manufacturers in some chemical cleaning materials and hair dyes.

Some genetic conditions: Children with Down syndrome have a third copy of chromosome 21. This increases the risk of acute myeloid or acute lymphatic leukemia to 2-3%, which is higher than children who do not have this syndrome.

Another genetic condition related to leukemia is Li-Fraumeni syndrome. which causes the TP53 gene to change.

Family history: Having siblings with leukemia can lead to a low risk of leukemia. If a person has twins identical to leukemia, he or she has a 1 in 5 chance of developing the same cancer.

Inherited problems in the immune system: Some inherited immune conditions increase the risk of severe infection and leukemia.

Immunosuppression: Childhood leukemia may develop due to deliberate inhibition of the immune system. This may happen after an organ transplant when the baby takes medication to prevent his body from rejecting the organ.

Many risk factors need further studies to confirm their association with leukemia, such as:

  • Exposure to electromagnetic fields
  • Exposure to certain chemicals in the workplace, such as gasoline, diesel and pesticides
  • Smoking
  • Using hair dyes

Types of leukemia

There are four main categories of leukemia:

  1. Acute
  2. Chronic
  3. Lymphoma
  4. Myelogenous

Chronic and acute leukemia:

Through its lifetime, white blood cells go through several stages, in acute , developing cells multiply rapidly and accumulate in the marrow and blood. These cells come out of the bone marrow very early and do not perform any function.

Chronic develops more slowly, allowing for the production of more mature and beneficial cells.

Acute leukemia causes healthy blood cells to be overcrowded faster than chronic leukemia.

Lymphocytic and Myelogenous leukemia:

Doctors classify leukemia according to the type of blood cell you develop.

Lymphocytes are white blood cells that play a role in the immune system. Lymphocytic leukemia occurs if cancerous changes affect the type of bone marrow that makes lymphocytes.

Myelogenous leukemia occurs when changes affect bone marrow cells that produce blood cells, rather than blood cells themselves.

Acute lymphocytic leukemia:

There are many types of chronic . Some produce too many cells and others cause very few cells to be produced. Chronic includes more mature blood cells. These blood cells multiply or accumulate more slowly and can function normally for a period of time. Some forms of chronic leukemia initially do not produce any early symptoms and can go unnoticed or diagnosed for years.

Children under the age of 5 are most likely to develop acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL). However, it can also affect adults, who are usually over 50 years of age.

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia:

It is the most common type among adults over the age of 55, but young adults can also develop it. About 25% of adults with this cancer have chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). It is more common in men than in women and rarely affects children.

Acute myelogenous leukemia:

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is more common in adults than in children, but in general, it is a rare cancer. It develops more often in men than in women.

This type is characterized by its rapid development, and its symptoms include fever, difficulty breathing and joint pain. Environmental factors can lead to this type.

Chronic myeloid leukemia:

Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML):

develops mostly in adults. About 15% of all leukemia cases in the United States are CML. Children rarely develop this type of leukemia.


Symptoms of leukemia include:

Poor blood clotting: This can cause bruises or bleeding easily and slowly heal when injured. They may also develop points hemorrhage, which are small red and purple spots on the body. These spots indicate that the blood is not clotting properly.

Freckles develop when immature white blood cells are crowded with platelets and are essential for blood clotting.

Recurrent infections: White blood cells are crucial in fighting infection. If white blood cells do not work properly, a person may become infected repeatedly. The immune system may then attack the body’s cells.

Anemia: With fewer effective red blood cells, a person may develop anemia. This means that they do not have enough hemoglobin in the blood. Hemoglobin transports iron around the body.  Iron deficiency can therefore lead to difficulty breathing or pallor of the skin.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Night sweats
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Weight loss
  • Bone pain
  • Fatigue

If the liver or spleen becomes swollen, the person may eat less, leading to weight loss.

Weight loss may also occur even without enlarged liver or spleen. Headaches may indicate that cancer cells have entered the central nervous system. However, all of these can be symptoms of other diseases. Consultation and testing are therefore necessary to confirm a diagnosis of leukemia.


Your doctor will perform a physical exam to help diagnose leukemia. The doctor will also perform a physical examination and ask about your personal and family medical history. They will check for signs of anemia and feel enlarged liver or spleen. They will also take a blood sample for evaluation in the laboratory.

If your doctor suspects leukemia, they may suggest a bone marrow test. The surgeon extracts the bone marrow from the center of the bone, usually from the hip, using a long, soft needle. This can help them confirm the presence of leukemia and determine its type, which helps doctors develop the optimal treatment plan and assess the patient’s condition.

Treatment methods

Surgery is the likely treatment for some types of leukemia. Treatment options depend on the type of leukemia a person suffers from, age, and general health status.

The primary treatment for leukemia is chemotherapy. The cancer care team will adapt this treatment to the type of leukemia. If treatment begins early, the chance of recovery will be higher.

Treatment types include:

Watchful wait: The doctor may not actively treat slow-growing leukemia, such as chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).

Chemotherapy: The doctor administers intravenous medications (IV), either drip or needle. Which targets and kills cancer cells. However, non-cancer cells can also be damaged and cause severe side effects, including hair loss, weight loss and nausea.

Chemotherapy is the primary treatment to fight leukemia. But sometimes, doctors may recommend a bone marrow transplant.

Targeted therapy: This type of treatment uses tyrosine kinase inhibitors that target cancer cells without affecting other cells, thereby reducing the risk of side effects.

Interferon therapy: This treatment slows the growth and spread of cancer cells and eventually stops them. This drug works in a similar way to substances naturally produced by the immune system. However, it can cause severe side effects.

Radiation therapy: In people with certain types of leukemia, such as acute lymphocytic leukemia, doctors recommend radiation therapy to destroy bone marrow tissue before transplantation.

Surgery: Surgery often involves removing the spleen, but this depends on the type of leukemia a person suffers from.

Stem cell transplantation: In this procedure, the cancer care team destroys the bone marrow found in chemotherapy or radiation therapy or both. They then implant new stem cells into the bone marrow to form non-cancerous blood cells.

This procedure can be effective in treating chronic myeloid leukemia. Younger people with leukemia are more likely to have a successful transplant than older people.