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Chronic lymphocytic leukemia

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is a malignant hematologic illness in which the bone marrow makes too many lymphocytes, but which become functionally incompetent. It is spread through the blood, bone marrow, lymphatic glands and spleen. The predominant tumor cell is the mature lymphocyte, called “monoclonal proliferation”.

Lymphocytic leukemia affects 25 – 30% of the adult leukemias. It is the most frequent in the western world where CLL type B predominates, while in the Asian countries he most frequent is type T with a worse prognosis. In Europe, the incidence is 3/100,000 inhabitants/year.

The average age for diagnosis is 60 years old and is slightly more prevalent in men than in women. A third of the patients are less than 55 at the moment of diagnosis. The diagnosis is usually because of a laboratory finding (leukocytosis with lymphocytosis) and many patients (some 40%) are asymptomatic when diagnosed.


An important percentage of the patients, whether over time or at diagnosis, name tiredness as the most prevalent symptom, increased size of the lymphatic glands and/or frequent infections. A physical examination can show, in addition to mobile, small or moderate-size, palpable lymph nodes in the gland regions and moderate splenomegaly and hepatomegaly (enlarged liver and spleen).


Environmental or work-related risk factors are not known but there is a familiar predisposition to develop the illness. Thus, the risk of developing it from a close family member is two to seven times greater than that of the general population.

Gene or region studied

  • 6p21.32
  • IRF4
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