Acute Myelogenous Leukemia is most common in older people because it is a genetic abnormality that is acquired during a person’s life and not inherited from their parents. Radiation and chemotherapy increase the risk of a person developing AML, but some genetic disorders such as Down’s Syndrome and Fanconi anemia can increase the risk as well. Sometimes a higher than normal rate of leukemia is found in a particular family. They may have inherited an increased susceptibility to AML. When the person acquires the damage to the DNA of developing bone marrow cells it causes uncontrolled, quickened growth and the production of normal cells is blocked (Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, 2005).
Incidence: In the United States, there are about 9,000 - 11,960 individuals who get AML each year (Robien and Ulrich, 2003).
Prevalence in children: About 20% of the cases of childhood leukemia are due to AML(Robien and Ulrich, 2003).
Average age at onset: AML is primarily a disease of the elderly. 65 is the median age at which patients are diagnosed with AML, and it is most prevalent in the post-retirement decades (Robien, Ulrich 30). The risk of developing AML increases rapidly as a person reaches 40. In the 30-34 age range, about 1 person per 100,000 people develops AML. People in the 65-69 age range are ten times more likely to develop AML, with 1 in 10,000 becoming ill (Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, 2005).
Specific risk factors: The cause of AML is not clear, but the condition has been linked to several environmental factors, including exposure to: high doses of irradiation, the chemical benzene, chemotherapy (particularly alkylating agents and topoisomerase inhibitors), and therapeutic radiation. Some rare genetic conditions, including “Fanconi anemia, Schwachman-Diamond syndrome, Down syndrome,” “Bloom's syndrome, and ataxia telangiectasia” increase the risk of developing AML. AML sometimes seems to run in families (Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, 2005).
Created by Shannon McGlauflin, Jolene Munger, and Rebecca Nelson, 2005.