National / Science & Health

Marrow donor volunteers in Japan hit monthly high after swimmer Rikako Ikee's leukemia announcement

Kyodo

The number of individuals registering as bone marrow donors reached a monthly record of 11,662 in February after teenage swimming star Rikako Ikee announced she has leukemia, according to the Japan Marrow Donor Program.

New registrations exceeded 10,000 in a single month for the first time. The monthly average ranges from around 2,000 to 4,000, the organization said Monday.

A total of 503,883 individuals are currently registered with the donor bank, the majority of whom are in their 40s, according to the group.

As the age limit for donors is set at 55, the donor bank will work to increase younger donors at blood donation centers this year.

Treating leukemia requires the patient’s bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cell to match the donor’s. If there is no match within the family, the patient looks to a third party.

“Currently only about 60 percent of patients are matched with someone. We’d like as many people as possible to register as donors, especially those who are younger,” a spokesperson for the group said.

The 18-year-old Ikee shot to fame at last summer’s Asian Games in Jakarta, where she was named the first female MVP after becoming the first swimmer to win six gold medals, all in record times.

She announced her diagnosis last month, sending shock waves throughout Japan and eliciting words of support.