Blood Cancers Blood Cancers
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Hematologic cancers, or cancers of the blood and bone marrow, are commonly called leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma.

Leukemia is a cancer of the cells from the bone marrow and blood. The two primary types of leukemia are lymphocytic leukemia and myelogenous leukemia. Leukemia can be acute or chronic. Acute forms of leukemia progress rapidly, whereas chronic forms progress slowly.

Scientists do not fully understand all the causes of leukemia, but research has uncovered many associations. Exposure to benzene or radiation and smoking have been shown to cause certain types of leukemia in some cases.1 Caucasians are more likely than African Americans to develop acute leukemia,2 but scientists do not know why.

Lymphoma is a general term for a group of cancers that originate in the lymph system. The two primary types of lymphoma are Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The main causes of lymphoma are unknown.

Myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells, a type of white blood cell. In myeloma, the cells overgrow, forming a mass or tumor that is located in the bone marrow. These tumor cells produce proteins that may damage the body.

Age is the most significant risk factor for developing myeloma.1 Men are more likely than women to have myeloma, and myeloma is about twice as common among African Americans as among white Americans.2


In 2004, more than 100,000 cases of hematologic cancers were diagnosed in the United States and 54,264 people died from these cancers, according to the U.S. Cancer Statistics: 2004 Incidence and Mortality report.2

Although the number of new cases of leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma diagnosed each year has increased, deaths from these blood cancers have decreased in recent years.2 This decrease may be due to many factors including early detection, better treatments, and expanding research.

Among children and adolescents, hematologic cancers account for 41% of new cancer cases diagnosed each year and 31% of deaths associated with cancer. Cancer is the leading disease-specific cause of death for adolescents. Of all childhood cancer deaths reported in the United States in 2004, leukemias were the most common diagnoses.3

CDC Activities

CDC has expanded our research, partnerships, education, and resources around hematologic cancers and cancer survivorship over the past 5 years. Our efforts include resources on childhood, adolescent, and young adult (AYA) cancer survivorship, including supporting the Emmy® Award-winning film, A Lion in the House, new accredited educational modules on childhood cancer survivorship, and the Lance Armstrong Foundation’s new podcast series on AYA issues. Currently, CDC is funding projects at the following public and private, nonprofit and for-profit national organizations to increase awareness of and education about hematologic cancers and survivorship.

Education Network to Advance Cancer Clinical Trials, Inc.* (ENACCT) Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Lymphoma Research Foundation Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation National Marrow Donor Program Patient Advocate Foundation Oregon Health and Science University Cancer Institute* ( SuperSibs! Sibling Survivors Education and Information Dissemination Program* National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship University of Colorado at Denver and Health Science Center*

CDC funds 65 states, tribes, territories, and Pacific Island jurisdictions to implement comprehensive cancer control (CCC) programs in their region. CCC is a collaborative process through which a community pools resources to reduce the burden of cancer. Each program’s cancer control plan is tailored to meet the needs of its population. Many plans include goals and strategies covering hematologic cancers, such as prevention, early detection, enhanced treatment, information on clinical trials, health disparities, and community resources and support services for cancer survivors and the medical community. For more information, visit CDC’s National Comprehensive Cancer Control Program and Cancer Control P.L.A.N.E.T.

These efforts connect the public, people living with hematologic cancers, their friends and families, and the health care community with resources for understanding the diseases better; asking the right questions about one’s diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship care plan; identifying community support networks; and enhancing and expanding survivorship services for patients, family members, and caregivers.