Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) | Causes, Signs & Management

For your information, Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) is also known as acute myelogenous leukemia, acute myeloblastic leukemia, acute granulocytic leukemia, and acute nonlymphocytic leukemia. It is a type of cancerous attack on the blood and bone marrow. Not forgetting, bone marrow is the spongy tissue inside bones where blood cells are made.

For example, before his death, the former and longest-serving Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore battled this rare disease—a blow to many Kenyans, Business Partners, and even the world at large. The word “acute” in acute myeloid leukemia denotes the disease’s rapid progression.

To enumerate, it’s called myelogenous (my-uh-LOHJ-uh-nus) leukemia because it affects a group of white blood cells called myeloid cells. Not to mention, this can generally develop into various types of mature blood cells. Such as red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

What Is Leukemia?

To understand more about leukemia, it helps to know about the blood and lymph systems. Bone marrow is the soft inner part of certain bones. It is made up of blood-forming cells, fat cells, and supporting tissues. A small fraction of the blood-forming cells is blood stem cells.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia

Inside the bone marrow, blood stem cells develop into new blood cells. During this process, the cells become either lymphocytes (a kind of white blood cell) or other blood-forming cells, which are types of myeloid cells.

Myeloid cells can develop into red blood cells, white blood cells (other than lymphocytes), or platelets. These myeloid cells are the ones that are abnormal in AML.

Types of Blood Cells

There are three main types of blood cells:

  • Red blood cells (RBCs) carry oxygen from the lungs to all other tissues in the body and take carbon dioxide back to the lungs to be removed.
  • Platelets are actually cell fragments made by a type of bone marrow cell called the megakaryocyte. Platelets are important in stopping the bleeding. They help plug up holes in blood vessels caused by cuts or bruises.
  • White blood cells (WBCs) help the body fight infections.

In general, Leukemia or myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) can cause bone or joint pain. Usually, because your bone marrow has become overcrowded with cancer cells.

With acute lymphoblastic leukemia, bone pain occurs in approximately 25 percent of patients at the disease’s onset.

What Causes Acute Myeloid Leukemia?

Before looking at the cause, it is important to realize, Myeloid and lymphoid lineages both are involved in dendritic cell formation. Whereby, Myeloid cells include;

  • monocytes,
  • macrophages,
  • neutrophils,
  • basophils,
  • eosinophils,
  • erythrocytes, and
  • megakaryocytes to platelets.

On the other hand, Lymphoid cells include T cells, B cells, and natural killer cells. Feel free to learn more about hematopoietic stem cells.

With this in mind, any type of cancer starts when cells in a part of the body begin to grow out of control. Obviously, there are many kinds and even types of cancer.

In other words, cells in nearly any part of the body can become cancer. To learn more about cancer and how it starts and grows, see What Is Cancer?

After you sort yourself, a more definition of terms to consider would be;

1. Leukemias Cancer

These are the type of cancers that start in cells that would normally develop into different types of blood cells.

Most often, leukemia starts in early forms of white blood cells, but some leukemias start in other blood cell types.

There are several types of leukemia, which are divided based mainly on whether the leukemia is acute (fast-growing) or chronic (slower-growing). And also, in regards to whether it starts in myeloid cells or lymphoid cells.

2. Anemia Condition

Anemia is defined as a condition where you don’t have enough red blood cells. These cells carry oxygen to all your organs and tissues.

When you have anemia, your body may not get enough oxygen. You can feel tired, weak, and short of breath as a result.

3. Bleeding Disorder

If your platelets are affected, your blood may not clot normally. You may bruise or bleed more easily than usual.

When you cut yourself or get a nosebleed, the bleeding might not stop easily. You can also bleed inside your body, which could be serious.

4. Immunity System

The white blood cells in your immune system normally find and attack invading germs. With AML, you have fewer healthy white blood cells available to fight infections.

If your immune system is weak, you’re more likely to get infections. When you do get sick, your body will be slower to heal.

5. Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) 

The AML type starts in the bone marrow (the soft inner part of certain bones, where new blood cells are made). But, most often, it quickly moves into the blood, as well.

It can sometimes spread to other parts of the body including the lymph nodes, liver, spleen, central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), and testicles.

Most often, AML develops from cells that would turn into white blood cells (other than lymphocytes). Sometimes though, AML develops in other types of blood-forming cells.

How Does Acute Myeloid Leukemia Develop?

For a person suffering from acute myelogenous leukemia, it develops onset by damage to the DNA of developing cells in your bone marrow. When this happens, blood cell production goes wrong. The bone marrow produces immature cells that develop into leukemic white blood cells called myeloblasts.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia

These abnormal cells cannot function properly, and they can build up and crowd out healthy cells. In most cases, it’s not clear what causes the DNA mutations that lead to leukemia. Radiation, exposure to certain chemicals and some chemotherapy drugs are known risk factors for acute myelogenous leukemia.

Factors that May Increase the Risk of Acute Myeloid Leukemia

As an example, factors that may increase or even catalyst your risk of acute myelogenous leukemia include:

  • Increasing age: The risk of acute myelogenous leukemia increases with age. Acute myelogenous leukemia is most common in adults age 65 and older.
  • Your sex: Men are more likely to develop acute myelogenous leukemia than are women.
  • Previous cancer treatment: People who’ve had certain types of chemotherapy and radiation therapy may have a greater risk of developing AML.
  • Exposure to radiation: People exposed to very high levels of radiation, such as survivors of a nuclear reactor accident, have an increased risk of developing AML.
  • Dangerous chemical exposure: Exposure to certain chemicals, such as benzene, is linked to a greater risk of AML.
  • Smoking: AML is linked to cigarette smoke, which contains benzene and other known cancer-causing chemicals.
  • Other blood disorders: People who’ve had another blood disorder, such as myelodysplasia, myelofibrosis, polycythemia vera or thrombocythemia, are at greater risk of developing AML.
  • Genetic disorders: Certain genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome, are associated with an increased risk of AML.

Equally important, many people with AML have no known risk factors, and also, the majority of people who have risk factors never develop AML cancer.

Early Signs And Symptoms

General signs and symptoms of the early stages of acute myelogenous leukemia may mimic those of the flu or other common diseases. However, signs and symptoms may vary based on the type of blood cell affected. Having said that early signs and symptoms of acute myelogenous leukemia include:

  • Fever,
  • Bone pain,
  • Lethargy and fatigue,
  • Shortness of breath,
  • Pale skin,
  • Frequent infections,
  • Easy bruising,
  • Unusual bleeding, such as frequent nosebleeds, bleeding from the gums, etc.

Make an appointment with a doctor if you develop any signs or symptoms that seem unusual or that worry you.


As a matter of fact, the 5-year survival rate for people 20 and older with AML is approximately 24%. Whereas, for people younger than 20, the survival rate is 67%. That’s because their body is too busy making the leukemic blast cells. Even though the result can be deadly, for many people, AML is a treatable disease.

To prevent infections, your doctor might recommend that you stay away from anyone who’s sick and take antibiotics regularly. Another essential point, staying up to date on your vaccinations can also prevent you from getting sick. But, you may not be able to take “live” vaccines like the shingles vaccine. All in all, your doctor will know which kind of vaccines are OK for you to get.

Finally, we hope you have gathered enough information in regard to the above-revised guide on AML. But, if you have additional information, contributions, or even suggestions, please don’t hesitate to Consult Us for more support. You can also share some or more of your thoughts in the comments box below this post. Below are more additional and related to the topic links.

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