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Myelofibrosis can be associated with many other conditions including breast cancer, prostate cancer, Hodgkin's disease, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, acute myeloid leukemia, acute lymphocytic leukemia, hairy cell leukemia, multiple myeloma, myeloproliferative diseases, tuberculosis, Gaucher's disease, and Paget's disease of bone. Myelofibrosis typically becomes progressively worse and can cause death.

In myelofibrosis, abnormal cells (hematopoietic stem cells) grow out of control and begin to produce both immature blood cells and excess scar (fibrous) tissue. The fibrous tissue builds up (fibrosis) primarily in the bone marrow, the place where blood cells are produced. The fibrous tissue interferes with the production of normal blood cells. The outcome of this is that the blood made by the bone marrow is of poor quality. To compensate for this, blood cell production occurs in other parts of the body (extramedullary hematopoiesis), but most notably in the spleen and liver. This causes enlargement of the spleen (splenomegaly) and the liver (hepatomegaly). Extramedullary hematopoiesis is not effective and, combined with the reduced production of blood cells by the bone marrow, a condition called anemia results.

The abnormal stem cells can spread throughout the body, settle in other organs, and form tumors that produce more abnormal blood cells and fibrous tissue. These tumors are most commonly found in the adrenals, kidneys, lymph nodes, breast, lungs, skin, bowel, thymus, thyroid, prostate, and urinary tract.

Most patients with myelofibrosis are over 50 years old; the average age at diagnosis is 65 years. However, myelofibrosis can occur at any age. Myelofibrosis occurs with equal frequency in women and men, but in children it affects girls twice as often as it does boys.

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