Leukemia care at Miami Cancer Institute at Baptist Health South Florida is targeted and personalized. Special diagnostic techniques help us provide the most accurate leukemia diagnosis – down to the subtype – by revealing blood cell counts, genetic and molecular abnormalities, and bone marrow changes.

Our physicians use the information gathered during your diagnostic tests – including genetic information – to develop a treatment plan tailored for your specific condition.

What is leukemia?

Leukemia describes a group of blood cancers that affect leukocytes (white blood cells). These cancers begin in the bone marrow, where blood cells are made, but can affect other parts of the lymphatic system, too.

The condition happens when genetic information (DNA) in white blood cells is altered or destroyed. This causes the body to produce dysfunctional white blood cells that take over the bone marrow. This eventually affects the body’s ability to produce healthy white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets.

Though pediatric leukemia is the most common type of cancer in children and teens, most types of leukemia affect adults.

What are the types of leukemia?

Leukemia may develop quickly (acute leukemia) or slowly (chronic leukemia). It can also affect different types of white blood cells.

The most common types of leukemia are:

  • Acute myeloid leukemia (AML). AML is one of the most common types of leukemia in adults. It affects myeloid cells – cells that are involved in the creation of white blood cells.
  • Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL). ALL is the most common form of childhood leukemia. It affects lymphocytes – white blood cells that form lymphatic tissue, which makes up your immune system.
  • Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). CML is more common in older adults. It affects myeloid cells and is caused by a chromosome mutation that is not fully understood yet.
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). CLL is the most common type of chronic leukemia in adults. It affects lymphocytes.

Other types of blood cancers that are similar to leukemia include myeloproliferative diseases and systemic mastocytosis. Myeloproliferative diseases happen when the body makes too many white blood cells, red blood cells or platelets. Systemic mastocytosis occurs when a type of white blood cell called a mast cell builds up in internal tissues and organs.

What are the risk factors for leukemia?

The main risk factor for leukemia is exposure to high levels of radiation or certain chemicals. Other risk factors include:

  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer treatment
  • Using immunosuppressants after an organ transplant
  • Myelodysplastic syndromes
  • Genetic syndromes such as Down syndrome and Fanconi anemia
  • Family history of CLL

What can you do to prevent leukemia?

Doctors do not know yet if there is a way to prevent leukemia. It is not possible to prevent it by avoiding risk factors – you can develop the condition with no known risk factors, or you can have one or more risk factors and never develop leukemia.

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