Leukemia is cancer of the blood cells. Most blood cells form in the bone marrow. In leukemia, cancerous blood cells form and crowd out the healthy blood cells in the bone marrow.  

Leukemia is either acute or chronic.  

  • Acute leukemia is a fast-growing cancer that usually gets worse quickly.
  • Chronic leukemia is a slower-growing cancer that gets worse slowly over time.

The type of leukemia depends on the type of blood cell that has become cancerous.

  1. For example, acute lymphoblastic leukemia is a cancer of the lymphoblasts (white blood cells that fight infection). White blood cells are the most common type of blood cell to become cancer. But red blood cells (cells that carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body) and platelets (cells that clot the blood) may also become cancer.

Leukemia occurs most often in adults older than 55 years, and it is the most common cancer in children younger than 15 years.

The treatment and prognosis for leukemia depend on the type of blood cell affected and whether the leukemia is acute or chronic. Chemotherapy is often used to treat leukemia.

Number of New Cases and Deaths per 100,000: The number of new cases of leukemia was 13.3 per 100,000 men and women per year. The number of deaths was 7.0 per 100,000 men and women per year. These rates are age-adjusted and based on 2008-2012 cases and deaths.

Lifetime Risk of Developing Cancer: Approximately 1.5 percent of men and women will be diagnosed with leukemia at some point during their lifetime, based on 2010-2012 data.

Prevalence of This Cancer: In 2012, there were an estimated 318,389 people living with leukemia in the United States.

In 2015, it is estimated that there will be 54,270 new cases of leukemia and an estimated 24,450 people will die of this disease.

Death rates from leukemia are higher among the elderly. People with leukemia have many treatment options, and treatment for leukemia can often control the disease and its symptoms. Leukemia is the seventh leading cause of cancer death in the United States. The number of deaths was 7.0 per 100,000 men and women per year based on 2008-2012 deaths.

(All of the above information is based on Cancer.org, National Institutes of Health and SEER statistics)

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