Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML)

Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) is a type of cancer that causes the body to produce an increased number of the white blood cells that normally help fight infection (myelocytes). It sometimes is referred to as acute myeloid leukemia, acute myelocytic leukemia, myeloblastic leukemia, granulocytic leukemia, or acute nonlymphocytic leukemia.

AML is more common in men than in women. The incidence of AML increases with age.

AML is an acquired rather than inherited disease. Usually the cause of AML is unknown. But it may be caused by high doses of radiation, exposure to the chemical benzene, smoking and other tobacco use, and chemotherapy used to treat other types of cancer. It also is more common in children with Down syndrome or other genetic conditions.

Symptoms of AML include weakness and fatigue, fever, poor appetite, easy bruising or bleeding, and weight loss.

AML has several subtypes. A doctor can tell one from another by looking at AML cancer cells. Each subtype has different proteins on the surface of a cell or different chromosome changes in a cell.

Different subtypes have different treatments. Some subtypes are harder to treat than others. Treatment for AML usually includes chemotherapy. Older adults do not tolerate or respond to treatment as well as younger people do.

Last Updated: November 26, 2008

Author: Bets Davis, MFA

Medical Review: Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Brian Leber, MDCM, FRCPC - Hematology

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