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Childhood acute leukemia

Light microscope image of cancer cells of acute lymphatic leukemia (ALL).
Acute leukemia is the most common childhood cancer and represents about one third of all childhood cancers. 

There are two main forms of acute leukemia:

  • Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is the most common form of leukemia and represents about 85% of all cases. The cancer cells originate from immature precursors of B and T lymphocytes. In rare cases, they originate from mature B cells. This form of leukemia is most common in small children (2-5 years), but also occurs in the teenage years. The prognosis is most often favorable. 
  • Acute mylogenous leukemia (AML) is relatively rare in children and represents about 15% of all cases. The malignant clone stems from early stages of myeloid cells. The disease resembles adult AML and is more difficult to treat than ALL. Still, the treatment results have improved significantly in the last two decades.

Chronic forms of leukemia that are common in adults are extremely rare in children. Chronic myelogenous leukemia exists, but there are very few cases per year in Norway. The treatment follows the same principles as in adults. Chronic lymphatic leukemia does not occur in children.


In 2012, there were 34 children (0-14 years) diagnosed with acute leukemia in Norway There were 16 boys and 18 girls (11). The incidence of children is 4/100,000.

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