Lymphoma Risk Factors

Risk Factors for Developing Lymphoma

A risk factor is anything that changes your chance of getting a disease such as cancer. Different cancers have different risk factors, but having a risk factors or even several, does not mean that you will get the disease.

Risk Factors Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

  • Age
    Getting older is a strong risk factor for lymphoma overall, with most cases occurring in people in their 60s or older. But some types of lymphoma are more common in younger people.
  • Gender
    Overall, the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma is higher in men than in women, but there are certain types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that are more common in women. The reasons for this are not known.
  • Race, ethnicity, and geography
    In the United States, whites are more likely than African Americans and Asian Americans to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Worldwide, non-Hodgkin lymphoma is more common in developed countries, with the United States and Europe having the highest rates. Some types of lymphoma that have been linked to specific infections (described further on) are more common in certain parts of the world.
  • Exposure to certain chemicals
    Some studies have suggested that chemicals such as benzene and certain herbicides and insecticides (weed- and insect-killing substances) may be linked with an increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Research to clarify these possible links is still in progress.
  • Radiation exposure
    Studies of survivors of atomic bombs and nuclear reactor accidents have shown they have an increased risk of developing several types of cancer, including leukemia, thyroid cancer, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
  • Immune system deficiency
    People with weakened immune systems have an increased risk for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. For example, people who receive organ transplants (kidney, heart, liver) are treated with drugs that suppress their immune system to prevent it from attacking the new organ. These people have a higher risk of developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can also weaken the immune system, and people infected with HIV are at increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
  • Autoimmune diseases
    Some autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE, or lupus), celiac sprue (gluten-sensitive enteropathy), and others have been linked with an increased rate of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
  • Infections
    Some types of infections may raise the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in different ways.
    • Infections that directly transform lymphocytes
    • Infections that weaken the immune system - Infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
    • Infections that cause chronic immune stimulation
  • Body weight and diet
    Some studies have suggested that being overweight or obese may increase your risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Source: American Cancer Society - What are the risk factors for non-Hodgkin lymphoma?

Risk factors for Hodkgin Lymphoma

Scientists have found a few risk factors that may make a person more likely to develop Hodgkin disease, although it’s not always clear why these factors increase risk.

  • Epstein-Barr virus infection/mononucleosis
    People who have had infectious mononucleosis (sometimes called mono for short), an infection caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), have an increased risk of Hodgkin disease.
  • Age
    Hodgkin disease is most common in early adulthood (ages 15 to 40, especially in a person's 20s) and in late adulthood (after age 55).
  • Gender
    Hodgkin disease occurs slightly more often in males than in females.
  • Geography
    Hodgkin disease is most common in the United States, Canada, and northern Europe, and is least common in Asian countries.
  • Family history
    Brothers and sisters of young people with this disease have a higher risk for Hodgkin disease. The risk is very high for an identical twin of a person with Hodgkin disease. But a family link is still uncommon, and is seen in only around 5% of all cases.
  • Socioeconomic status
    The risk of Hodgkin disease is greater in people with a higher socioeconomic background. The reason for this is not clear.
  • HIV infection
    The risk of Hodgkin disease is increased in people infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Source: American Cancer Society - What are the risk factors for Hodgkin disease?

back to top