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Affected individuals tend to have high amounts of a protein called alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) in their blood. The level of this protein is usually increased in the bloodstream of pregnant women. The effect of abnormally high levels of AFP in people with ataxia-telangiectasia is unknown.
People with ataxia-telangiectasia often have a weakened immune system, and many develop chronic lung infections. They are also at an increased risk of developing cancer, particularly leukemia and lymphoma. Affected individuals are very sensitive to the effects of radiation exposure, including medical x-rays. Although people with ataxia-telangiectasia usually live into adulthood, their life expectancy is reduced.