Cancer Information

Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia

Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) is the most common cancer occurring in children, representing 23% of cancer diagnoses among children younger than 15 years and occurring at an annual rate of approximately 30 to 40 per million.  There are approximately 2,400 children and adolescents diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia each year in the United States.

Peak incidence of Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia occurs at age of 2-3 years with approximately 4-fold greater than that for infants and is nearly 10-fold greater than that for children who are 19 years old.

The incidence of Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia is substantially higher for white children than for black children, with a nearly 3-fold higher incidence at 2 to 3 years for white children compared to black children. The incidence of ALL appears to be highest in Hispanic children (43 per million).

There are few identified factors associated with increased risk of Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia -

The primary accepted non-genetic risk factors for ALL are prenatal exposure to x-rays and postnatal exposure to high doses of radiation.

Increased occurrence of ALL is also associated with certain genetic conditions:

  • Down syndrome

  • Ataxia telangiectasia

  • Bloom syndrome

  • Neurofibromatosis

  • Shwachman syndrome

Certain cases of ALL that develop in children may have a prenatal origin. There is also data that shows patients with ALL have specific chromosomal translocations have blood cells carrying the translocation at the time of birth.

Despite the treatment advances noted in childhood ALL, numerous important biologic and therapeutic questions remain to be answered in order to achieve the goal of curing every child with ALL