Myeloid leukemia versus lymphocytic leukemia: The second factor to consider in classifying leukemia is the type of bone marrow cells that are affected. If granulocytes or monocytes are involved, the leukemia is classified as myeloid leukemia (also known as myelogenous or myelocytic leukemia).
This document contains information on acute myeloid leukemias of adults only. Chronic leukemias of adults and acute lymphocytic leukemia of adults are discussed in other American Cancer Society documents. A separate document on Childhood Leukemias is also available.
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML), also known as acute myelogenous leukemia, is a cancer of the myeloid line of white blood cells, characterized by the rapid proliferation of abnormal cells which accumulate in the bone marrow and interfere with the production of normal blood cells. AML is the most common acute leukemia affecting adults, and its incidence increases with age. While AML is a relatively rare disease overall, accounting for approximately 1.2% of cancer deaths in the United States, its incidence is expected to increase as the population ages.
The symptoms of AML are caused by replacement of normal bone marrow with leukemic cells, resulting in a drop in red blood cells, platelets, and normal white blood cells. These symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, easy bruising and bleeding, and increased risk of infection. While a number of risk factors for AML have been elucidated, the specific cause of AML remains unclear. As an acute leukemia, AML progresses rapidly and is typically fatal in weeks to months if left untreated.
Acute myeloid leukemia is a potentially curable disease; however, only a minority of patients are cured with current therapy. AML is treated initially with chemotherapy aimed at inducing a remission; some patients may go on to receive a hematopoietic stem cell transplant.
Areas of active research in acute myeloid leukemia include further elucidation of the cause of AML; identification of better prognostic indicators; development of new methods of detecting residual disease after treatment; and the development of new drugs and targeted therapies.