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Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)

(Acute Myelogenous Leukemia; Acute Myeloblastic Leukemia; Acute Myelomonocytic Leukemia; Acute Myelocytic Leukemia)


Ashkan Emadi

, MD, PhD, University of Maryland;

Jennie York Law

, MD, University of Maryland

Last full review/revision November 2018 by Ashkan Emadi, MD, PhD; Jennie York Law, MD

Acute myeloid leukemia is a life-threatening disease in which the cells that normally develop into neutrophils, basophils, eosinophils, and monocytes become cancerous and rapidly replace normal cells in the bone marrow.

  • People may be tired or pale, may be easily susceptible to infection and fever, and may bruise or bleed easily.
  • Blood tests and bone marrow examination are needed for diagnosis.
  • Treatment includes chemotherapy to achieve remission plus additional chemotherapy to avoid relapse and sometimes stem cell transplantation.

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is the most common type of leukemia among adults, although it affects people of all ages. AML sometimes is caused by chemotherapy or radiation therapy given to treat another cancer.

In AML, immature leukemia cells rapidly accumulate in the bone marrow, destroying and replacing cells that produce normal blood cells. The leukemia cells are released into the bloodstream and are transported to other organs, where they continue to grow and divide.

There are several subtypes of AML, which are identified based on characteristics of the leukemia cells.

Acute promyelocytic leukemia is an important subtype of AML. In this subtype, chromosomal changes in promyelocytes—cells that are at an early stage in the development into mature neutrophils—allow accumulation of these immature cells.


The first symptoms of AML are very similar to those of acute lymphocytic leukemia. People may have fever and excessive sweating, indicating infection. A high risk of infection results from too few normal white blood cells. Weakness, fatigue, and paleness may indicate anemia, which results from too few red blood cells. Easy bruising and bleeding, sometimes in the form of nosebleeds, bleeding gums, or bleeding in the brain or abdomen, results from having too few platelets.

Leukemia cells can invade other organs. Leukemia cells in the bone marrow may cause bone and joint pain. A sense of fullness in the abdomen and sometimes pain can result when leukemia cells cause enlargement of the liver and spleen. Leukemia cells can form small masses throughout the body, including in or just under the skin (called leukemia cutis) or gums, or in the eyes.

More Information

  • Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

Drugs Mentioned In This Article

Generic Name Select Brand Names
mitoxantrone No US brand name
azacitidine VIDAZA
idarubicin IDAMYCIN PFS

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