About Fanconi Anemia

Sean, Alex & Jacqueline

Fanconi Anemia (FA), named for Swiss pediatrician, Guido Fanconi, is one of the inherited anemias that leads to bone marrow failure (aplastic anemia). It is a recessive disorder: if both parents carry a defect (mutation) in the same FA gene, each of their children has a 25% chance of inheriting the defective gene from both parents. When this happens, the child will have FA.

There are at least eleven FA genes (A, B, C, D1 (BRCA2), D2, E, F, G, I, J, and L). These eleven account for almost all of the cases of Fanconi anemia. Mutations in FA-A, FA-C, and FA-G are the most common and account for approximately 85% of the FA patients worldwide. FA-D1, FA-D2, FA-E, FA-F, and FA-L account for 10%. FA-B, FA-I, and FA-J represent less than 5% of FA patients. Nine of the Fanconi anemia genes have been cloned.

FA occurs equally in males and females. It is found in all ethnic groups. Though considered primarily a blood disease, it may affect all systems of the body. Many patients eventually develop acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). Older patients are extremely likely to develop head and neck, esophageal, gastrointestinal, vulvar and anal cancers. Patients who have had a successful bone marrow transplant and, thus, are cured of the blood problem associated with FA still must have regular examinations to watch for signs of cancer. Many patients do not reach adulthood.

Fanconi anemia patients are usually smaller than average. FA usually reveals itself before children are 12 years old, but in rare cases no symptoms are present until adulthood. Patients may feel extreme fatigue and have frequent infections. Nosebleeds or easy bruising may be a first sign. Blood tests may reveal a low white cell, red cell or platelet count or other abnormalities. Sometimes myelodysplasia or AML is the first sign of FA.