Vitamin B12 & Leukemia

Your body requires a wide variety of vitamins and minerals every day. Among these is vitamin B12, an essential B-vitamin that you obtain mostly from the food you eat. Having an excessively high or extremely low amount of vitamin B12 in your system can indicate a potential health problem; one of the diseases linked to B12 levels is a form of leukemia called chronic myelocytic leukemia.

Vitamin B12 levels are linked to a form of leukemia. (Image: ivanmateev/iStock/Getty Images)

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is one of the eight B-vitamins that the human body uses for various important physical processes. It is necessary for the proper functioning of your neurological system, synthesis of DNA and formation of red blood cells. Vitamin B12 can be found naturally in several animal-based foods, such as beef, fish, clams, yogurt, milk, eggs and poultry. Though plants do not normally contain B12, fortified breakfast cereals and some nutritional yeast products provide a good source for vegetarians.

Effects and Symptoms of Leukemia

Leukemia is a cancer that affects either bone marrow or the white blood cells, the defenders of your immune system that help fight off infection. Normally, white blood cells are formed within your bone marrow; however, leukemia causes abnormal development of these white blood cells, which overwhelm healthy cells and greatly impede the normal functioning of your blood, MedlinePlus reports. Though there are several subdivisions of this disease, some forms of leukemia can affect your body’s levels of vitamin B12.

Vitamin B12 and Leukemia

Chronic myelocytic leukemia, or CML, is a type of leukemia that causes excessive production of abnormal cells called granulocytes. This condition can greatly increase the amount of vitamin B12 in the patient’s system, MayoClinic.com explains. Symptoms of CML include excessive fatigue, unintended or unexpected weight loss, fever, night sweats, pain or a feeling of fullness below the left-hand ribs. Left untreated, CML may progress to bone marrow failure, bleeding and infection. However, some cases of CML may not show any symptoms at all. This disease occurs most often in middle-aged adults and in children, with a five-year survival rate of 90 percent.

Measuring Vitamin B12 Level

An abnormally high or low amount of vitamin B12 can indicate a potential disorder. Typically, B12 levels are measured with a complete blood count or CBC test. The normal values for vitamin B12 are anywhere between 200 and 900 pg/mL; different laboratories may have some variation in what level is considered normal. Your doctor may order the test if you exhibit signs of delirium, dementia, or numbness in your arms or legs, MedlinePlus notes. Testing for leukemia, on the other hand, requires a physical exam, blood tests, and bone marrow biopsies of your hipbone to determine if there are any abnormalities.

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