Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Types: A Detailed Overview

As the name suggests, acute lymphoblastic leukemia refers to an 'acute' cancer type that affects the bone marrow and the blood. 'Lymphoblastic' primarily refers to the development of cancer in lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell.

Acute leukemia spreads rapidly while creating immature or defective blood cells instead of normal-functioning, mature ones. Thus, it is advisable to start the treatment as soon as the diagnosis has been made.

This type of cancer is more common in kids, but it is also prevalent in adults. However, reports suggest that pediatric patients have higher survival rates when treated properly.

What Is Leukemia?

Leukemia is a type of blood cancer that is characterized by the abnormal production of blood cells. This type of cancer develops due to certain undesirable mutations that lead to abnormal cell division. Leukemia also affects the bone marrow’s ability to produce other blood cells, such as red blood cells (RBCs) and platelets.

Leukemia may be acute or chronic. Acute leukemia progresses rapidly and will need immediate medical attention. Chronic leukemia, on the other hand, progresses slowly, and doctors may recommend monitoring or surveillance for some time before recommending treatment.

Treatment for leukemia depends on a myriad of factors, such as the type of leukemia, its stage, the patient’s age and overall health condition, and the patient’s preferences.

What Is Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)?

Acute leukemia, or ALL, refers to an aggressive type of blood cancer that is associated with the abnormal production of white blood cells (WBCs).

ALL affects the bone marrow and blood. Acute leukemia spreads rather quickly, especially to the bloodstream and lymph nodes throughout the body. This type of blood cancer will often need immediate medical attention and prompt follow–up care.

Is Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) a common condition?

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is the most common type of leukemia among children. Children are mostly between the ages of 2 and 5 when they are diagnosed with this condition. However, acute lymphoblastic leukemia in adults is also prevalent, though not very common.

Where does Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) start?

Acute leukemia initiates in the bone marrow's lymphocytes or white blood cells. The bone marrow can be defined as the fatty and soft tissue present inside the human body. The marrow consists of cells responsible for producing platelets and blood cells.

ALL affects the lymphocytes, white blood cells mainly responsible for helping the body fight against bacteria and viruses. Normally, white blood cells produced by the bone marrow are immature and mature into normal-functioning cells as per their cell cycle.

However, in those with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the immature WBC cells, which are called lymphoblasts, never turn into normal ones. Instead, they spread rapidly in the bone marrow, overtaking the count of platelets and other blood cells. Then, these immature cells move quickly to the bloodstream and other body parts.

Types of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

There are mainly two types of acute lymphoblastic leukemia, depending on the type of white blood cell involved.

B-cell ALL

B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or B-cell ALL, is one of the acute lymphoblastic leukemia types that results in defective white blood cells, also called B-cell lymphoblasts. These immature white blood cells occur in the bone marrow and the bloodstream.

T-Cell ALL

T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia is a type of ALL that primarily affects the T-lymphocytes, which are a part of the immune system and have the role of destroying infected cells and releasing cytokines, which play an important role in immune system regulation.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) vs. Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL): What’s the Difference?

Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) and Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) are the two most common types of acute leukemia. The distinction between these two types depends on the type of blood cell involved in the cancerous growth.

In AML, the production of red blood cells, platelets, and myeloblasts is affected, while in ALL leukemia, the production of white blood cells or lymphocytes is affected. AML is more prevalent in adults, whereas ALL is more prevalent in children.


Acute Lymphocytic leukemia, or ALL, is a cancer affecting the bone marrow and blood. This type of cancer spreads quite fast and is mostly found among kids as compared to adults. However, survival rates are relatively high among children as compared to adults. The common symptoms of cancer include fever, frequent infections, pale skin, gum bleeding, and breath shortness.

Frequently Asked Questions

It is possible to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia with positive health outcomes. The earlier the disease is diagnosed, the better. Reports suggest that pediatric patients show relatively better treatment responses than adults.

Kids between the ages of 2 and 5 have a higher risk of developing ALL. Also, ALL is more common in males than females.

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia has no proper staging system. However, the following terms are commonly used to understand the stages of acute lymphoblastic leukemia:

  • Untreated: The disease is newly diagnosed and has not been treated yet.
  • Remission: The disease has been successfully treated, and the patient is in remission.
  • Relapsed: The treatment has failed, and the cancer has come back.
  • Refractory: The disease did not respond to the treatment.

The survival rates for acute lymphoblastic leukemia are relatively higher among children than adults; however, in recent times, we have been able to achieve good outcomes among adults, too.

B-cell ALL is known to be the most common type of ALL leukemia.

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is a serious condition that will need immediate medical attention. This disease progresses rather quickly and needs a comprehensive treatment regimen for effective management.

Acute lymphocytic leukemia progresses quickly with severe symptoms and needs immediate medical attention. This is because the cancer cells in acute lymphocytic leukemia patients divide rapidly.

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia, on the other hand, progresses slowly, and the early symptoms are mild in most cases and therefore go unnoticed.

Since the actual cause of acute lymphocytic leukemia is unknown, experts are not fully aware of the measures that can be taken to prevent this disease.

However, through multiple studies, we have found that a few factors increase the risk of acute lymphocytic leukemia, such as exposure to hazardous chemicals and radiation, having a poor immune system, having certain inherited genetic disorders, etc. Avoiding exposure to hazardous chemicals and radiation and having a healthier immune system could help reduce the risk of developing this disease.