Colin Powell had blood cancer that made it harder to fight infections, reports say

Secretary of State Colin Powell looks on as President Bush addresses State Department employees at the State Department in Washington on Feb. 15, 2001.
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Former Secretary of State Colin Powell reportedly had been diagnosed with a form of blood cancer that made it difficult to fight infections before his Monday death from what his family described as complications related to COVID-19.

The New York Times, the Associated Press and others reported Powell, 84, had been treated for multiple myeloma, citing his longtime aide Peggy Cifrino. His treatment had been going on for years.

More: Colin Powell, first Black secretary of state, dies from COVID-19 complications

Multiple myeloma forms in white blood cells that typically help fight infections, according to the Mayo Clinic. In multiple myeloma, cancerous cells crowd out healthy blood cells. Complications include frequent infections.

Powell’s family said in a prepared statement that the former secretary of state and retired four-star general was vaccinated but died from complications related to COVID-19. The statement posted on Facebook did not reference any other health problems Powell was facing.

Powell was the keynote speaker in 2019 for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation awards dinner, helping to raise $950,000.

Powell also faced a cancer diagnosis in 2003, when he had surgery for prostate cancer.

Death from COVID-19 after full vaccination is uncommon but age and preexisting medical conditions both could increase the odds of a breakthrough infection leading to death.

Powell’s age and cancer diagnosis would have put him among those at high risk.

More: 'One of our great Americans': President Biden, former presidents remember Colin Powell for his honor and dignity

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Colin Powell's blood cancer made it harder to fight infection: reports

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