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Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML) & Benzene

Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML) is a fast-growing cancer of the bone marrow and blood which can be caused by benzene exposures. Acute myelogenous leukemia is also known as acute myeloid leukemia, acute myeloblastic leukemia, acute granulocytic leukemia and acute nonlymphocytic leukemia. AML is the most common type of acute leukemia and is most common in adults. AML attacks myeloid cells, which are white blood cells in the bone marrow. The cells are not able to mature and are unable to ward off infections. As the unhealthy cells build up they crowd out healthy cells.

AML benzene

What Causes AML?

The most common cause for AML is previous exposures to carcinogenic substances like benzene. Benzene is a component of petroleum products including diesel fuel and gasoline. Benzene is often used as a base material in products such as solvents, detergents, degreasers, lubricants, inks, glues, plastics, rubbers, pesticides, paints, coatings, polishes, and thinners. Individuals are usually exposed to benzene in the workplace. Careers that involve transportation, gasoline distribution, boiling solvents, tire manufacturing, and fuel service stations also involve benzene.  Mechanics, chemical workers, steel workers, firefighters, oil refinery workers, and printers and pressmen have worked with or around benzene. Benzene exposure occurs when it is inhaled or ingested. Benzene can be absorbed through the skin as well. Chronic exposure to high levels of benzene has been directly linked to AML.

AML benzene

AML Symptoms

Typical symptoms of the early stages of AML may seem a lot like the flu or other common diseases. Fever, fatigue, weight loss, pale skin, shortness of breath, and bone pain are common symptoms. Other signs and symptoms may include bruising easily, frequent infections, and unusual bleeding, especially in the nose and gums. Contact a doctor for further diagnoses if you develop any signs or symptoms that seem unusual.

Treatment Options

There are two basic phases of treatment for AML: remission induction therapy and consolidation or maintenance therapy. The first phase of treatment is to kill the leukemia cells the bone marrow and blood. The next step is aimed at destroying the remaining leukemia cells. This will decrease the risk of relapse. The most common therapies included in these two stages are chemotherapy, radiation therapy, bone marrow stem cell transplant, targeted therapy, drug therapy, and/or biological therapy.

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