Leukemia is a malignant disease (cancer) that originates in a cell in the marrow. It is characterized by the uncontrolled growth of developing marrow cells. There are two major classifications of leukemia: myelogenous or lymphocytic, which can each be acute or chronic. The terms myelogenous or lymphocytic denote the cell type involved. Thus, four major types of leukemia are: acute or chronic myelogenous leukemia and acute or chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

Acute leukemia is a rapidly progressing disease that results in the accumulation of immature, functionless cells in the marrow and blood. The marrow often can no longer produce enough normal red and white blood cells and platelets. The lack of normal white cells impairs the body’s ability to fight infections. A shortage of platelets results in bruising and easy bleeding. Chronic leukemia progresses more slowly and permits greater numbers of more mature, functional cells to be made. New Cases Among an estimated 31,500 new cases of leukemia in the United States this year, about equal proportions are acute leukemia and chronic types. Most cases occur in older adults; more than half of all cases occur after age 60. Leukemia usually strikes ten times as many adults as children. Leukemia is the most common cancer among children and acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) accounts for 80 percent of the childhood leukemia cases.

Acute myeloid leukemia, which is very often fatal and is the form of cancer found to be most increased among flight crews , has an average survival time of 3 to 4 years following diagnosis.

Myeloid leukemia usually strikes men in their 30s and 40s. Even in patients who experience complete remission, recurrence is common. The disease develops rapidly, with symptoms including anemia, fever, bleeding, and swelling of the lymph nodes. Immature leukemia cells continue to divide in the bone marrow, which leads to rapid death if left untreated. It affects granulocytes and monocytes, white blood cells that destroy bacteria and some parasites.

Growth, pro-inflammatory, and immuno-suppressive cytokines often expressed by leukemias and lymphomas are:

Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). VEGF is considered essential for cancer cell survival and angiogenesis (the formation of new blood vessels). High levels of VEGF correlate with shortened survival in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (Ferrajoli et al. 2001).

Basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF). bFGF is a potent mitogen (growth signal) and is essential for angiogenesis. Simultaneous elevations in bFGF and VEGF are an independent predictor of a poor prognosis in non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (Salven et al. 2000).

Hepatocyte growth factor (HGF). Also known as a multiple function factor, HGF protects cancer cells from cytotoxic agents, contributes to the development of chemo-resistance, and stimulates hematopoiesis (Skibinski et al. 2001). (Hematopoiesis refers to the formation and development of blood cells occurring primarily in the bone marrow and to a lesser extent the lymph nodes.)

Epidermal growth factor (EGF). EGF is essential to the hyper-proliferation of some lymphomas and to epidermal cells (Courville et al. 1999).

Tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha). TNF-alpha is a pro-inflammatory cytokine significantly elevated in all leukemias except for AML and myelodysplastic syndromes (Aguayo et al. 2000).

Interleukin-6 (IL-6). IL-6 is a pro-inflammatory and immunosuppressive cytokine. Elevations in serum IL-6 correlate with adverse disease features and shortened survival in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (Fayad et al. 2001).

The lymphomas and leukemias that can overexpress these cytokines are:

  • Hodgkin’s disease – VEGF, bFGF, HGF
  • T-cell lymphoma – VEGF, EGF
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma – VEGF, bFGF, HGF, TNF-alpha, IL-6
  • Burkitt’s lymphoma – HGF, EGF
  • Chronic myeloid leukemia – VEGF, bFGF, HGF, TNF-alpha, IL-6
  • Acute myeloid leukemia – VEGF, bFGF, HGF
  • Chronic myelomonocytic leukemia – VEGF, bFGF, HGF, TNF-alpha
  • Acute lymphoblastic leukemia – bFGF, HGF, TNF-alpha
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia – VEGF, bFGF, HGF, TNF alpha, IL-6
  • Myelodysplastic syndromes – VEGF, bFGF, HGF


Signs, symptoms & indicators of Leukemia

Symptoms - Head - Mouth/Oral  

Gums that bleed easily

Very rarely, bleeding gums are due to leukemia.

Symptoms - Metabolic  

Unexplained high fevers or unexplained fevers that hit hard


Having a slight/having a moderate/having a high fever

Symptoms - Skin - General  

(High) bruising susceptibility

Conditions that suggest Leukemia


Anemia, Aplastic

Anemia, a deficiency of red cells, develops in almost all leukemia patients. With some kinds, such as T-cell LGL leukemia, only about 50% are found to be anemic.


Lab Values  


Leukemia can lead to




Recommendations for Leukemia




In evaluating 59 patients with lymphoid malignancies such as Hodgkin’s disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, multiple myeloma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia, serum selenium concentrations were significantly lower in patients than in controls. Clinical stage was inversely associated with selenium levels.



It was found that the copper to zinc ratio was significantly higher in patients with lymphoma or acute and chronic leukemias compared to control subjects. A person at increased risk of one of these cancers should check blood levels of copper and zinc to rule out abnormalities and make adjustments accordingly. Since zinc and copper are antagonistic, and zinc deficiency is relatively common, supplemental zinc is often used to improve this ratio. Zinc helps block the absorption of copper and acts to remove accumulated copper from the body as well as prevent its accumulation. [Rev. Invest. Clin, Nov-Dec. 1995;47(6): pp.447-52]


Weak or unproven link
Strong or generally accepted link
Proven definite or direct link
Likely to help



Cancer of the lymph glands and bone marrow resulting in overproduction of white blood cells (related to Hodgkin's disease).


Dangerous. mainly used to describe a cancerous growth -- when used this way, it means the growth is cancerous and predisposed to spreading.


Refers to the various types of malignant neoplasms that contain cells growing out of control and invading adjacent tissues, which may metastasize to distant tissues.


An illness or symptom of sudden onset, which generally has a short duration.


Usually Chronic illness: Illness extending over a long period of time.

White Blood Cell

(WBC): A blood cell that does not contain hemoglobin: a blood corpuscle responsible for maintaining the body's immune surveillance system against invasion by foreign substances such as viruses or bacteria. White cells become specifically programmed against foreign invaders and work to inactivate and rid the body of a foreign substance. Also known as a leukocyte.


A condition resulting from an unusually low number of red blood cells or too little hemoglobin in the red blood cells. The most common type is iron-deficiency anemia in which the red blood cells are reduced in size and number, and hemoglobin levels are low. Clinical symptoms include shortness of breath, lethargy and heart palpitations.

Lymph Nodes

Small, bean-shaped nodes at various points throughout the body that function to filter the lymph fluid and attempt to destroy the microorganisms and abnormal cells which collect there. The most common locations are the neck (both sides and front), armpit and groin, but also under the jaw and behind the ears. Swollen or painful lymph nodes generally result from localized or systemic infection, abscess formation, or malignancy. Other causes of enlarged lymph nodes are extremely rare. Physical examination for lymph nodes includes pressing on them to check for size, texture, warmth, tenderness and mobility. Most lymph nodes can not be felt until they become swollen, and then will only be tender when pressed or massaged. A lymph node that is painful even without touching indicates greater swelling. Lymph nodes can usually be distinguished from other growths because they generally feel small, smooth, round or oval-shaped and somewhat mobile when attempts are made to push them sideways. Because less fat covers the lymph nodes in children, they are easier to feel, even when they are not busy filtering germs or making antibodies. Children’s nodes enlarge faster, get bigger in response to an infection and stay swollen longer than an adult's.


Microscopic germs. Some bacteria are "harmful" and can cause disease, while other "friendly" bacteria protect the body from harmful invading organisms.


An organism living in or on another organism.


Cytokines are chemical messengers that control immune responses. They are secreted by white blood cells, T cells, epithelial cells and some other body cells. There are at least 17 different kinds of interleuken and 3 classes of interferon called alpha, beta and gamma and various subsets. Interleukens and interferons are called “cytokines” and there are two general groupings, Th1 and Th2. Th1 (T-cell Helper type 1) promote cell-mediated immunity (CMI) while Th2 (T-cell Helper type 2) induce humoral immunity (antibodies).


Any cell or corpuscle from which connective tissue is developed. Fibroblasts produce collagen and elastin.


Any tumor of the lymphatic tissues.


A compound that produces a toxic effect on cells.


Death of one or more cells, or of a portion of a tissue or organ.


The cell-free fluid of the bloodstream. It appears in a test tube after the blood clots and is often used in expressions relating to the levels of certain compounds in the blood stream.

Hodgkin's Disease

Cancer of the lymphatic system and lymph nodes.


T cells are lymphocytes that are produced in the bone marrow and mature in the thymus. T cells are responsible for mediating the second branch of the immune system called "cellular immune response." T cells can live for months to years. This lymphocyte population is defined by the presence of a rearranged T-cell receptor.


Tumor Necrosis Factor. TNF-alpha is a pro-inflammatory cytokine significantly elevated in all leukemias except for AML and myelodysplastic syndromes.

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