What is acute myeloid leukaemia (AML)?
Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) is a type of blood cancer. It affects a type of blood cell called myeloid cells, which include red blood cells, platelets and certain types of white blood cells. When you have AML, it stops you making enough of these blood cells, which makes you unwell. The symptoms you get will depend on the type of blood cell your body isn’t making enough of.
As blood cells are made in the bone marrow, the cancer will be present in the bone marrow and in the blood. We have more information about blood cells.
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How AML develops
All leukaemias start in stem cells or progenitor cells. This happens when the cells don’t mature properly and remain immature. These cells have a distinctive appearance when a specialist looks at your bone marrow cells under a microscope.
Every day we make around 10 billion new blood cells, and the information which controls how these blood cells grow up is held within our DNA. Every time a cell divides, the entire DNA code has to be copied exactly, and mistakes are made by chance.
AML develops when there are errors in the information that controls how blood cells grow up. It usually takes mistakes in several key genes that control blood production to cause AML.
Types of AML
AML is one of several different types of acute leukaemia. Acute promyelocytic leukaemia (APL, also known as APML) is a type of AML. About 15% of all cases of AML (fifteen cases in a hundred) are part of this specific type.
We have separate information about acute promyelocytic leukaemia (APL).
What is blood cancer?
Find out how blood cancer starts and how it can affect your body