Leukemia is the most common form of cancer in children, accounting for about one in three childhood cancers. In recent years, improvements in treatment and management have greatly increased survival rates, life expectancy and quality of life for children with leukemia. Miami Cancer Institute is committed to fighting leukemia for your child and all children. We are here for you and your family and will help you understand what to expect at each step and how to best care for your child. We also offer support services for your child and family to help you cope with changes and challenges throughout treatment and beyond. We also partner with Nicklaus Children's Hospital to provide any services and support your child might need.
In leukemia, the bone marrow — the soft, spongy center of certain bones — begins to make new blood cells (usually white blood cells) that do not mature correctly, but continue to reproduce themselves. Normal white blood cells help fight off infection, but these abnormal cells cannot. The immature white blood cells, called blasts, begin to crowd out other healthy cells in the bone marrow.
The type of leukemia is determined by the kind of blood cell affected and the stage of development when the normal cells become leukemia cells. The three most common types of pediatric leukemia are:
Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL): Also called lymphoblastic or lymphoid, it accounts for most of the childhood leukemias. With ALL, the bone marrow makes too many lymphocytes, crowding out other blood cells. The immature cells do not work properly to fight infection. ALL can occur over a short period of days to weeks.
Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML): AML may also be called granulocytic, myelocytic, myeloblastic or myeloid. It accounts for most other childhood leukemias. AML is usually a cancer of the blood in which too many granulocytes, a type of white blood cell, are produced in the marrow. Granulocytes normally fight infection. AML can occur over a short period of days to weeks.
Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML): This form is less common in children and occurs when too many granulocytes are produced in the marrow. CML is slow-growing and can occur over a period of months or years.
Environmental risk factors are not thought to play a large role in childhood leukemia. Some risk factors include having a brother or sister with leukemia, certain genetic disorders, and having been treated with radiation or chemotherapy for another disease.
Because the known risk factors are not preventable, there are no recommended preventive measures.