Acute myeloid leukemia develops when the bone marrow produces a large number of abnormal blood cells. It can take a toll on red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. While acute myeloid leukemia is a type of leukemia, it also has subtypes – eight, to be more specific - which are:
- myeloblastic on special analysis
- myeloblastic without maturation
- myeloblastic with maturation
The most prevalent symptoms of acute myeloid leukemia include frequent infections and fever, anemia, joint pain, easy bleeding or bruising, fatigue, and bone pain. Unfortunately, acute myeloid leukemia typically worsens rapidly if the patient does not receive effective treatment. The disease is also medically known as acute myelogenous leukemia or acute nonlymphocytic leukemia.
Usually, the bone marrow releases blood stem cells, which are immature but become mature over time. A stem cell can become a myeloid or a lymphoid stem cell. While a lymphoid stem cell becomes a white blood cell, a myeloid stem cell becomes one of these kinds of mature blood cells:
- red blood cell that carries oxygen and other substances to all tissues of the body
- white blood cell that fights infection and disease
- platelet that forms blood clots to stop bleeding
When a person has acute myeloid leukemia, the myeloid stem cells become a type of immature white blood cell known as myeloblasts. They are abnormal and do not turn into healthy white blood cells. Sometimes, too many stem cells become abnormal red blood cells or platelets. These are also known as leukemia blasts. Leukemia cells can accumulate in the bone marrow and blood, which allows less space for healthy white and red blood cells and platelets. When this occurs, infection, anemia, or easy bleeding are more likely to affect the person.
The connection between exposure to benzene and acute myeloid leukemia
In our country, benzene ranks among the top 20 chemicals in production volume, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Benzene exposure is one of the official risk factors for acute myeloid leukemia, and prolonged contact with the chemical has been known for over a century to damage the bone marrow, resulting in decreases in the numbers of circulating blood cells. Interestingly, benzene exposure can also lead to the development of myelodysplasia, a pre-leukemic state. Leukemia is the most serious, long-term health risk of benzene exposure, regardless of the disease's type.
The theory that benzene exposure could result in leukemia was more challenging and difficult to establish than the demonstration that benzene exposure could induce aplastic anemia. Decreases in blood cells stemming from benzene exposure can be observed a few months after the first contact with the chemical. However, there is a lag time of perhaps years between the initial benzene exposure and the occurrence of leukemia. Medical studies found that even low benzene exposure can increase leukemia risk, which is why people who have been using adulterated sunscreen need to keep a close eye on their health.