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History of leukemia

Historically speaking, the first people ever to recognize the cancer were ancient Greeks. Five thousand years B.C. they knew about this disease. However, there are some human (and human ancestor) remains that were diagnosed with malignant tumors, once they were excavated. Scientists also found dinosaur bones, believed to suffer from cancerous changes and about 150 million years old.

In modern days, number of people suffering from cancer seems to be increasing rapidly. You should bear in mind that many people had cancer before 20th and 21st century as well. Some of these patients were never properly diagnosed or treated, and a number of these patients died of some infectious disease. Factors that could increase the risk of cancers weren’t discovered until the beginning of the 20th century.

Facts about Leukemia

Leukemia was first diagnosed in 1845 in Scotland. Doctors found out that their patients experienced some extremely high amounts of white blood cells. The term used to describe the illness was “weisses blut” which literary translated means white blood. Current name, leukemia, also means “white blood”, coming from the Greek words. Some 30 years after the discovery of the disease, doctors classified 4 types of leukemia: acute lymphocytic leukemia, erythroleukemia and chronic lymphocytic and myelogenous leukemias.

Childhood leukemia is one of the diseases that is said to be on a constant rise in the 20th and 21st century. It is especially found in people of higher economic status, in children that weren’t exposed to any kind of infection in the early days of their life. Other potentially risk factors might be the exposure to chemicals and pesticides and less incidence of infectious diseases. Their immune system seems to be not responding well to the microbes and it doesn’t protect these children from the risk of leukemia.

Leukemia Treatments

The first thing ever tried as leukemia treatment was arsenic and the therapeutic use existed until the discovery of radiation therapy. Some scientists still research the use of this chemical in people suffering from leukemia.

Radiation therapy was proven to be both solution and cause of leukemia, and until the end of the WWII (Second World War) there were no treatments that worked for leukemia patients. Aminopterin was introduced in 1940, as the substance able to prevent the replication of DNA in cancer cells. Many say that aminopterin started the chemotherapy era. Another drug, 6-mercaptopurin, introduced in the 40's is still in the use, especially combined with some other medications.

DNA and genetic analysis opened a new chapter in leukemia treatments. Scientists believe that the discovery of cancer causes linked to DNA damage will lead to the breakthrough in the therapy of leukemia.

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