Difference Between Acute and Chronic Leukemia (With Table)

Leukemia is the most common type of cancer. It grows and multiples in the blood of a person. The cancer cells replicate and infest the normal blood cells and hinder the normal functioning of the same. Acute and chronic Leukemia are two types of this cancer.

Acute vs Chronic Leukemia

The main difference between acute and chronic Leukemia is the growth rate of cancerous blood cells. While Acute Leukemia has a fast growth rate, Chronic Leukemia has a slow growth rate. The former develops quickly, whereas the latter develops slowly and may show symptoms later because cancerous cells in Acute Leukemia multiply fast.

Acute Leukemia is a fast-replicating cancerous cell that is considered a critical condition. The symptoms appear earlier in the body and can be severe depending upon the case. Early treatment can reduce the cancer cells but cannot completely eradicate them. It restricts the maturing of blood stem cells, creating numerous white blood cells that malfunction.

Chronic Leukemia is slow-growing cancer. The severity of this type of cancer is low and has moderate progress. It affects the development of the blood stem cells, consequently reducing its efficiency. The symptoms appear at a later stage in acute cancer. The treatment for this type of Leukemia varies with its intensity. An early diagnosis is advisable. 

Comparison Table Between Acute and Chronic Leukemia

Parameters of ComparisonAcute LeukemiaChronic Leukemia
Rate of growthThe growth rate is fast.The growth rate is slow.
SymptomsSymptoms include low white blood cell count, pale skin, infection, shortness of breath, etc.Symptoms include tiredness, weight loss, night sweats, loss of appetite, etc.
CausesImmature blood stem cells.Underdevelopment of blood stem cells.
TreatmentChemotherapy, targeted therapy, or stem cell therapy are used to treat chronic Leukemia.Chemotherapy, corticosteroids, and monoclonal antibodies are used to treat acute Leukemia.
SeverityIt is comparatively more severe.It is less severe.
Survival RateLow survival rate.High survival rate.
Alternative nameAcute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia.

What is Acute Leukemia?

Acute Leukemia is a type of cancer that develops in the body’s bone marrow. It originates when blood stem cells cannot mature, resulting in numerous white blood cells that do not function properly. It is also called Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. It is most common in children, although the recovery rate is high.

In 1857, German pathologist Nikolaus Friedrich documented the first case of Acute Leukemia. However, Wilhelm Ebstein, a German physician, was accredited with its discovery in 1889.

Acute Leukemia grows at a fast rate. Therefore, symptoms and signs appear at an early stage. The symptoms may include low white blood cell count, infections, tiredness, shortness of breath, bone or joint pains, etc. The bone marrow of a person diagnosed with this cancer produces many dysfunctional cells that overgrow the healthy marrow cells.

Blood samples and bone marrow are employed to detect this type of cancer. Being higher in intensity, Acute Leukemia is treated in various ways depending upon its severity. The treatment usually entails chemotherapy, stem cell therapy, or targeted therapy. The patient diagnosed with Acute Leukemia should be monitored regularly and in some cases, hospitalization may be necessary.

What is Chronic Leukemia?

Chronic Leukemia is fast-growing cancer that causes due to the underdevelopment of blood stem cells. It is the most common type of cancer in adults. They originate in the bone marrow but progresses towards the blood. The growth of cancerous cells in Chronic Leukemia is slow. As a result, early detection is possible. Therefore, the survival rate is high as well.

The symptoms may include tiredness, bone and joint pain, loss of appetite, night sweats, nosebleeds, etc. It is not much severe as compared to its acute counterpart.

The cells mature partly. Hence, they are not able to fight infections to their maximum capacity. They generally live longer than normal cells and invade the body. Therefore, one can live for years with this cancer.

Risk factors may include age over 60, being of European descent, exposure to high levels of benzene, Agent Orange, or radiation. The treatment differs with the severity of the condition. The various treatment necessary for such conditions includes chemotherapy, corticosteroids, and monoclonal antibodies.

Main Differences Between Acute and Chronic Leukemia

  1. Acute Leukemia has a slow growth of cancerous cells, whereas Chronic Leukemia has a fast growth. 
  2. The former is due to immature blood stem cells, while the latter is due to the underdevelopment of blood stem cells.
  3. Acute Leukemia has low white blood cell count, pale skin, infection, shortness of breath, etc., as its main symptoms. On the other hand, tiredness, weight loss, night sweats, and loss of appetite are symptoms of Chronic Leukemia. 
  4. The severity of cases is higher for Acute Leukemia than for Chronic Leukemia. 
  5. Targeted therapy or stem cell therapy are tools for Acute Leukemia treatment, whereas corticosteroids or monoclonal antibodies are for Chronic Leukemia treatment. Chemotherapy is routine for both. 
  6. The survival rate for Acute Leukemia is lower than that of Chronic Leukemia. 
  7. The former is most common in children, whereas the latter is more common in adults. 


The exact cause of Leukemia and why some people have acute and others have chronic conditions is still unknown. Research says that both environmental and genetic factors are involved. It may also occur due to changes in the DNA of the cells.

Leukemia is most widespread in people from 65 to 74 years of age. It is also more common in Caucasians. 30% of children diagnosed with cancer have Leukemia.

Cancer can be a life-threatening condition. In many cases, symptoms appear at a late stage. Therefore, survival rates are lower in such situations. However, with advancements in medicines, cancer is being treated with 100% recovery in most cases. The threat that cancer used to hold is a thing of the past.


  1. https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/abs/10.7326/0003-4819-87-6-740
  2. https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/full/10.1289/ehp.9023