Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) Risks, Prevention and Prognosis

Risk factors can increase the chance of getting cancer. There are different kinds of risk factors. Some risk factors for cancer, like age and family history, cannot be prevented.

Currently, the only known risk factors for acute myeloid leukemia (AML) are:

  • Prior chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy
  • Repeated exposure to benzene
  • Certain genetic disorders
  • A history of other blood cancers 

If you are concerned about your risk for developing leukemia, speak with your physician.

Identifying prognostic factors

Since there are few known risk factors for leukemia, oncologists focus on prognostic factors, or the risk for relapse.

Relapse happens when, after a period of improvement or no evidence of disease, the leukemia returns. Traditionally, when someone was diagnosed with AML they were treated with chemotherapy drugs identified as standard treatment for that type of leukemia, or a bone marrow transplant.

Today, with advances in research, diagnostic tools, and gene sequencing, cancer researchers and clinicians are getting a better picture of leukemia and its genetic markers and chromosomal abnormalities. With this knowledge, oncologists can determine what type of treatment a person with leukemia will best respond to, and have better chances of avoiding relapse.

Prognostic factors for AML

Currently, prognostic factors for AML can be divided into the following based on tests of the chromosomes and genes in the leukemia cells.

  • Favored risk: Patients are likely to go into remission with chemotherapy.
  • Intermediate risk: Patients have neither favorable or unfavorable risk.
  • Unfavored risk: Difficult for patients to get into and remain in remission. 

Identifying Prognosis at Penn Medicine’s Center for Personalized Diagnostics

At Penn Medicine’s Center for Personalized Diagnostics cancer researchers, oncologists and geneticists are using genome sequencing to learn more about your specific cancer type, and tailor treatment to you.

Personalized diagnostics can reveal a genetic blueprint of the cancer as unique and detailed as your fingerprint. With this information, hematologists-oncologists that treat leukemia at Penn have a better picture of the genetic makeup of your leukemia.