Leukemia: Acute myeloid leukemia (AML)

AML affects nearly 15,000 adults every year. This type of leukemia is generally diagnosed after age 40 and is most frequently found in patients after age 65. It is only sometimes found in children.

AML occurs when the blueprint or genetic material of the blood cells is damaged. Instead of growing into mature infection-fighting white blood cells, they become stuck at an earlier stage of development called blasts. These blasts begin growing rapidly and eventually crowd out the production of normal red and white blood cells and platelets in the bone marrow.

As the number of oxygen-carrying red blood cells decline, patients may develop anemia, appearing pale, tired or short of breath. A decline in platelets that normally help the blood clot may lead to easy bruising or bleeding. A decline in white blood cells puts patients at increased risk for infections that can be life-threatening.

Since AML is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow it may also be found in the other organs including the liver, spleen, lymph nodes, and skin.