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  • What is leukemia?
    • Leukemia is cancer that starts in the tissue that forms blood. In a person with leukemia, the bone marrow makes abnormal white blood cells. The abnormal cells are leukemia cells. Unlike normal blood cells, leukemia cells don't die when they should. They may crowd out normal white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. This makes it hard for normal blood cells to do their work.

      There are four common types of leukemia:
      * Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL): CLL affects lymphoid cells and usually grows slowly. It accounts for more than 15,000 new cases of leukemia each year. Most often, people diagnosed with the disease are over age 55. It almost never affects children.
      * Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML): CML affects myeloid cells and usually grows slowly at first. It accounts for nearly 5,000 new cases of leukemia each year. It mainly affects adults.
      * Acute lymphocytic (lymphoblastic) leukemia (ALL): ALL affects lymphoid cells and grows quickly. It accounts for more than 5,000 new cases of leukemia each year. ALL is the most common type of leukemia in young children. It also affects adults.
      * Acute myeloid leukemia (AML): AML affects myeloid cells and grows quickly. It accounts for more than 13,000 new cases of leukemia each year. It occurs in both adults and children.

      Leukemias are the most common childhood cancers. The most common kinds of Leukemia in children are acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) and acute myelogenous leukemia (AML).

  • What is WI EPHT focusing on for leukemia?
    • The WI EPHT is providing data on the following:
      * Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL)
      * Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)
      * Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL)

  • What are the risk factors for leukemia?
    • There are risk factors that increase the chance of developing leukemia, but they may differ for the different types of leukemia:

    • Smoking: Smoking cigarettes increases the risk of acute myeloid leukemia.
    • Benzene: Exposure to benzene in the workplace can cause acute myeloid leukemia. It may also cause chronic myeloid leukemia or acute lymphocytic leukemia. Benzene is used widely in the chemical industry. It's also found in cigarette smoke and gasoline.
    • Chemotherapy: Cancer patients treated with certain types of cancer-fighting drugs sometimes later get acute myeloid leukemia or acute lymphocytic leukemia. For example, being treated with drugs known as alkylating agents or topoisomerase inhibitors is linked with a small chance of later developing acute leukemia.
    • Down syndrome: Down syndrome and certain other inherited diseases increase the risk of developing acute leukemia.
    • Myelodysplastic syndrome and certain other blood disorders: People with certain blood disorders are at increased risk of acute myeloid leukemia.
    • Human T-cell leukemia virus type I (HTLV-I): People with HTLV-I infection are at increased risk of a rare type of leukemia known as adult T-cell leukemia. Although the HTLV-I virus may cause this rare disease, adult T-cell leukemia and other types of leukemia are not contagious.
    • Family history of leukemia: It's rare for more than one person in a family to have leukemia. When it does happen, it's most likely to involve chronic lymphocytic leukemia. However, only a few people with chronic lymphocytic leukemia have a father, mother, brother, sister, or child who also has the disease.
    • Radiation: People exposed to very high levels of radiation are much more likely than others to get acute myeloid leukemia, chronic myeloid leukemia, or acute lymphocytic leukemia.
      • Atomic bomb explosions: Very high levels of radiation have been caused by atomic bomb explosions (such as those in Japan during World War II). People, especially children, who survive atomic bomb explosions are at increased risk of leukemia.
      • Radiation therapy: Another source of exposure to high levels of radiation is medical treatment for cancer and other conditions. Radiation therapy can increase the risk of leukemia.
      • Diagnostic x-rays: Dental x-rays and other diagnostic x-rays (such as CT scans) expose people to much lower levels of radiation. It's not known yet whether this low level of radiation to children or adults is linked to leukemia. Researchers are studying whether having many x-rays may increase the risk of leukemia. They are also studying whether CT scans during childhood are linked with increased risk of developing leukemia.
    • Having one or more risk factors does not mean that a person will get leukemia. Most people who have risk factors never develop the disease.

  • What are the risk factors for Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL)?
    • The known risk factors for ALL include:

    • * Sex: Overall, males are more likely to develop ALL than females.
    • * Age: Most new cases happen in children between the ages of 2 and 5 years.
    • * Race: White children are almost two times more likely to develop ALL than black children.
    • * Socioeconomic status (SES): Children with a higher SES have an increased risk for ALL.
    • * Ionizing radiation.
    • * Genetic conditions: Children with the following genetic conditions are at increased risk
      • Down syndrome: Children with Down syndrome are 20 times more likely to develop ALL.
      • neurofibromatosis,
      • Shwachman syndrome,
      • Bloom syndrome,
      • ataxia telangiectasia,
      • Langerhans cell histiocytosis, and
      • Klinefelter syndrome.

  • What are the risk factors for Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML)?
    • The known risk factors for AML include:

    • * Race: Hispanic children are at highest risk.
    • * Chemotherapy: Children who are exposed to alkylating agents or epipodophyllotoxins during chemotherapy treatment are at increased risk.
    • * Genetic conditions: Children with the following genetic conditions are at increased risk
      • Down syndrome
      • neurofibromatosis,
      • Shwachman syndrome,
      • Bloom syndrome,
      • Familial monosomy 7,
      • Kostmann granulocytopenia, and
      • Fanconi anemia.

    • A number of other factors have been investigated to determine their relationship with ALL and AML but any evidence has been inconsistent and limited. These factors include exposures to specific chemicals, paternal occupation, paternal smoking, maternal alcohol use, and factors related to birth. International variation in the occurrence of childhood leukemias as well as studies finding increases in risk with population growth due to in- migration in areas have lead to the theory that an infectious agent may play a role; however, studies have not been able to confirm the presence of an infectious agent.

  • How is leukemia related to the Environment?
    • Additional research is needed to better understand the relationship between leukemias and the environment. Risk factors vary for adults and children and differ based on the type of leukemia. For adult-onset leukemia, the most firmly established environmental risk factor is exposure to ionizing radiation; benzene, agricultural exposures, a nd smoking also have been linked to elevated risk. For acute lymphocytic leukemia in children, their exposure to ionizing radiation and a parent's exposure to pesticides and other chemicals may increase risk.

  • What are the risk factors for chronic lymphocytic leukemia?
    • Older age can affect the risk of developing chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Other risk factors include the following:
      * Being middle-aged or older, male, or white.
      * A family history of chronic lymphocytic leukemia or cancer of the lymph system.
      * Having relatives who are Russian Jews or Eastern European Jews.

Last Revised: January 28, 2014


Data Query

  • Leukemia Cancer Data
  • Leukemia--Acute Lymphocytic Cancer Data
  • Leukemia--Acute Myelogenous Cancer Data
  • Leukemia--Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Cancer Data
  • Access the leukemia cancer data in the WI EPHT online database. Review the Data Details below to learn about interpreting the data.

    The WI EPHT online database has data about other specific cancers:

    Data Details

    What is the data source?

    The website provides data from the Wisconsin Cancer Reporting System, which is maintained by the Office of Health Informatics, Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

    How does WI EPHT measure cancer?

    The WI EPHT website includes the following measures:

    • counts for each cancer type
    • age adjusted rate for each cancer type

    What are some considerations for interpreting the data?

    While significant effort is made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the data, there are limitations that are listed below:

    • Reporting may be less complete from rural versus urban areas of the state.
    • Reporting may be less complete for cases where diagnosis and/or treatment occurs in a different state.
    • Reporting completeness is different depending on the type of cancer.

    There are many factors that can contribute to a disease and should be considered when interpreting the data. Some of these include:

    • Demographics, e.g., race, gender, age
    • Socioeconomic Status, e.g., income level, education
    • Geographic, e.g., urban vs. rural
    • Changes in the medical field, e.g., diagnosis patterns, reporting requirements
    • Individual behavior, e.g., diet, smoking