Medical Topics

Childhood Cancer: Leukemia

Environmental Factors May Predispose Children to Develop This Disease. Can You Prevent it?


The term leukemia refers to cancers of the white blood cells (also called leukocytes or WBCs). When a child has leukemia, large numbers of abnormal white blood cells are produced in the bone marrow. These abnormal white cells crowd the bone marrow and flood the bloodstream, but they cannot perform their proper role of protecting the body against disease because they are defective.

As leukemia progresses, the cancer interferes with the body's production of other types of blood cells, including red blood cells and platelets. This results in anemia (low numbers of red cells) and bleeding problems, in addition to the increased risk of infection caused by white cell abnormalities.

Initially, abnormal leukemia cells appear only in the bone marrow and blood, but later they may spread elsewhere, including the lymph nodes, spleen, liver, brain, and testes.

Types of Childhood Leukemia
In general, leukemias are classified into acute (rapidly developing) and chronic (slowly developing) forms. In children, about 98% of leukemias are acute.

Childhood leukemias are also divided into acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) or acute nonlymphocytic leukemia (ANLL), depending on whether they involve specific white cells called lymphocytes. These are a type of white cell linked to immune defenses. ANLL is also called acute myelogenous leukemia (AML).

As a group, leukemias account for about 25% of all childhood cancers and affect about 2,200 American young people each year. Approximately 60% of children with leukemia have ALL, and about 38% have AML. Although slow-growing chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) may also be seen in children, it is very rare, accounting for fewer than 50 cases of childhood leukemia each year in the United States.

Risk for Childhood Leukemia
ALL generally occurs in younger children ages 2 to 8, with a peak incidence at age 4. It is more common among white children than those of other racial backgrounds, and it affects boys more often than girls. AML may be seen in infants during the first month of life, but then it becomes relatively rare until the teenage years.

Children have a 20% to 25% chance of developing ALL or AML if they have an identical twin who was diagnosed with the illness before age 6. In general, nonidentical twins and other siblings of children with leukemia have two to four times the average risk of developing this illness.

Children who have inherited certain genetic problems - such as Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Down syndrome, Kleinfelter syndrome, neurofibromatosis, ataxia telangectasia, or Fanconi's anemia - have a higher risk of developing leukemia, as do children who are receiving medical drugs to suppress their immune systems after organ transplants.

Children who have received prior radiation or chemotherapy for other types of cancer also have a higher risk for leukemia, usually within the first 8 years after treatment.

In most cases, neither parents nor children have control over the factors that trigger leukemia, although current studies are investigating the possibility that some environmental factors may predispose a child to develop the disease. Most leukemias arise from noninherited mutations (changes) in the genes of growing blood cells. Because these errors occur randomly and unpredictably, there is currently no effective way to prevent most types of leukemia.

To limit the risk of prenatal radiation exposure as a trigger for leukemia (especially ALL), women who are pregnant or who suspect that they might be pregnant should always inform their doctors before undergoing tests or medical procedures that involve radiation (such as X-rays).

Regular checkups can spot early symptoms of leukemia in the relatively rare cases where this cancer is linked to an inherited genetic problem, to prior cancer treatment, or to use of immunosuppressive drugs for organ transplants.

The Good News:
A good immune system supported by Immunol™, a clinically tested natural product, will help you prevent non-genetic cellular changes which may end up as childhood and adult cancers. The ingredients in Immunol™ have been tested in 6 double blind clinical studies and have been shown to increase the numbers of macrophages and natural killer cells which cleanse the body of abnormal cells. Immunol™ has been shown to safe and effective. See our Special Report on this recommended product. Also see our Fresh N' Clean™ product line for the removal of environmental mutation factors from fruits, vegetables and non-ground meats.

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