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Cancer of blood-forming tissues with high levels of leukocytes. Radiation exposure and hereditary susceptibility are factors in some cases. In acute leukemias, anemia, fever, bleeding, and lymph-node swelling develop rapidly. Acute lymphocytic leukemia, found mostly in children, was once over 90% fatal in six months. Drug therapy can now cure more than half these children. Acute myelogenous (granulocytic) leukemia, found mostly in adults, has frequent remissions and recurrences, and few patients survive long. Chronic myelogenous leukemia most often begins in the 40s; weight loss, low fever, weakness, and other symptoms may not develop immediately. Chemotherapy helps the symptoms but may not prolong life. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia, mostly in the elderly, may be inactive for years. Survival rates are better than in myelogenous leukemia; most deaths are caused by infection or hemorrhage.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on leukemia, visit Britannica.com.