Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL)

Alternative Names

ALL; Acute childhood leukemia; Cancer – acute childhood leukemia (ALL); Leukemia – acute childhood (ALL)

Definition of Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL)

Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) is a fast-growing cancer in which the body produces a large number of immature white blood cells (lymphocytes). These cells are found in the blood, bone marrow, lymph nodes, spleen, and other organs.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

ALL makes up 80% of childhood acute leukemias. Most cases occur in children ages 3 – 7. The disease may also occur in adults.


A person with ALL is more likely to bleed and have infections because there are fewer normal blood cells and platelets. Life-threatening symptoms may develop.

Signs and tests

A physical exam may reveal the following:


The goal of treatment is to get the blood counts and the bone marrow back to normal. If this occurs and the bone marrow looks healthy under the microscope, the cancer is said to be in remission.

Expectations (prognosis)

Children usually have a better outcome than adults. Almost all children go into complete remission. Without treatment, a person with ALL can expect to live for only about 3 months.


David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc., and Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. – 3/2/2010

Bone marrow aspiration
Acute lymphocytic leukemia - photomicrograph
Auer rods
Bone marrow from hip
Immune system structures

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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