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A slowly progressing cancer that starts in blood-forming cells of the bone marrow. Leukemias are the result of an abnormal development of leukocytes (white blood cells) and their precursors. Leukemia cells look different than normal cells and do not function properly.
There are four main types of leukemia, which can be further divided into subtypes. When classifying the type of leukemia, the first steps are to determine whether the cancer is lymphocytic or myelogenous (cancer can occur in either the lymphoid or myeloid white blood cells) and whether it is acute or chronic (rapidly or slowly progressing).
Chronic leukemia cells live much longer than normal white blood cells, resulting in an accumulation of too many mature granulocytes or lymphocytes. Chronic leukemia progresses slowly but can develop into an acute form. Major types include chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and chronic myelocytic leukemia (CML).
Author Info: Kate Kretschmann, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit, Gale Encyclopedia of Cancer, 2002
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