Acute myelogenous leukaemia (AML) is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow — the spongy tissue inside bones where blood cells are made.
The word "acute" in acute myelogenous leukaemia denotes the disease's rapid progression. It is called myelogenous (my-uh-LOHJ-uh-nus) leukaemia because it affects a group of white blood cells called the myeloid cells, which normally develop into the various types of mature blood cells, such as red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.
Acute myelogenous leukaemia is also known as acute myeloid leukaemia, acute myeloblastic leukaemia, acute granulocytic leukaemia and acute nonlymphocytic leukaemia.
Acute myelogenous leukaemia is caused by damage to the DNA of developing cells in the bone marrow. The bone marrow produces immature cells that develop into leukaemic white blood cells called myeloblasts. These abnormal cells are unable to function properly, and they can build up and crowd out healthy cells.
In most cases, it's not clear what causes the DNA mutations that lead to leukaemia. Radiation, exposure to certain chemicals and some chemotherapy drugs are known risk factors for acute myelogenous leukaemia.