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Leukaemia

Leukaemia is a cancer which starts in blood-forming tissue, usually the bone marrow. It leads to the over-production of abnormal white blood cells, the part of the immune system which defends the body against infection.

Blood cells are formed in the bone marrow, the spongy tissue found inside the bones. Blood-forming stem cells divide to produce either more stem cells or immature cells that become mature blood cells over time. A blood stem cell may become a myeloid stem cell or a lymphoid stem cell.

A myeloid stem cell becomes one of three types of mature blood cells:

A lymphoid stem cell becomes a lymphoblast cell and then one of three types of lymphocytes (white blood cells):

Leukaemia affects white blood cells and can be classified by the type of white cell affected (myeloid or lymphatic) and by the way the disease progresses (acute or chronic). Acute and chronic do not refer to how serious the disease is but to how rapidly it progresses.

  • Published: Aug 2016
  • Next planned review: Aug 2018