Risks and causes of Hodgkin lymphoma
This page tells you about the possible risks and causes of Hodgkin lymphoma. There is information about
Risks and causes of Hodgkin lymphoma
We don't know exactly what causes Hodgkin lymphoma. Most people who develop it do not have any particular risk factors. But there are a few things that may make some people more likely to get it.
Age and gender
Hodgkin lymphoma can occur at any age, although it is rare. In the UK it occurs more commonly in men between the ages of 20 to 24 and 75 to 79. In women it occurs more commonly between the ages of 20 to 24 and 70 to 74. It is slightly more common in men than women.
Anyone whose immune system is not working properly may be more likely to develop a lymphoma. This includes
- People who take drugs to stop organ rejection after a transplant
- People who have HIV or AIDS
- People born with rare medical syndromes that affect immunity
- People who develop auto immune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
Other risk factors
People who have had Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) infection are more at risk of developing Hodgkin lymphoma than other people in the population. EBV is the virus that causes glandular fever (mononucleosis). Smoking can increase the risk of developing Hodgkin lymphoma. Being obese may also increase the risk but the evidence is not very strong.
You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the About Hodgkin lymphoma section.
Hodgkin lymphoma used to be called Hodgkin's disease. It is a rare cancer. Around 1,800 cases are diagnosed in the UK each year.
We don't know exactly what causes Hodgkin lymphoma but there are some things that may make some people more likely to get it. Research is going on to try to find out exactly what does cause this cancer. What we do know is that, like all cancers, Hodgkin lymphoma is not infectious. You cannot catch it from someone who has it.
There is information below about factors that may increase or decrease the risk of Hodgkin lymphoma.
A risk factor is anything that can increase your chance of developing cancer. Do bear in mind that having one or more of these risk factors does not necessarily mean that you will get Hodgkin lymphoma.
Hodgkin lymphoma is a rare cancer, that can occur at any age. In the UK it occurs more commonly in men between the ages of 20 to 24 and 75 to 79. In women it occurs more commonly between the ages of 20 to 24 and 70 to 74.
People treated for a previous non Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) have an increased risk of Hodgkin lymphoma. This may be due to the treatment they had for the NHL.
Anyone whose immune system is not working properly is more likely to develop Hodgkin lymphoma. The immune system fights disease. You may have low immunity if you
- Are taking medicines to stop organ rejection after a transplant
- Have HIV (human immuno deficiency virus) or AIDS (acquired immuno deficiency syndrome)
- Were born with a rare medical syndrome that affects immunity
- Develop an auto immune condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis or systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
People with HIV or AIDS have a risk of Hodgkin lymphoma that is 11 times higher than the general population. People who have had an organ transplant have up to 4 times the risk of developing Hodgkin's lymphoma than other people in the population.
We don't know why there is an increased risk in people with auto immune disease. It may be due to the drugs people have to take or due to the immune conditions themselves. It may also be due to common factors that we don't yet know about that can cause both the auto immune conditions and Hodgkin lymphoma.
A few studies show that Hodgkin lymphoma risk is lower in groups of people who are exposed to infections early. If you live in crowded conditions, have brothers and sisters, or go to nursery, you are more likely to pick up common childhood infections early in life rather than later. Researchers think that getting infections early may help us to develop a healthy immune system and this could be what lowers the risk of Hodgkin lymphoma.
Epstein Barr virus (EBV) is the virus that causes glandular fever (mononucleosis). Glandular fever is not a serious illness, although it can make people feel very unwell and may last a long time. People who have had glandular fever have an increased risk of Hodgkin lymphoma afterwards. A study published in December 2011 estimated that 4 in 10 cases of Hodgkin lymphoma in the UK are related to EBV infection.
First degree relatives of people with Hodgkin lymphoma, non Hodgkin lymphoma, or chronic lymphocytic leukaemia have an increased risk of getting Hodgkin lymphoma themselves. A first degree relative is a parent, child, sister or brother. We don't know whether this is due to an inherited gene change or whether it is due to shared lifestyle factors.
A study combining all the results of earlier research found that breastfeeding does not affect your risk of developing Hodgkin lymphoma.
Several studies over the years have looked into hair dyes and risk of lymphomas. So far there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that hair dye increases your risk of developing Hodgkin lymphoma.
A few studies show a lower risk of Hodgkin lymphoma in alcohol drinkers. In 2012 an overview of studies showed a lower risk in drinkers, but not in drinkers who smoked. However, it is important to remember that alcohol can increase the risk of some other types of cancer.
Several studies, including the large European study called EPIC (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition) and the Million women study have shown an increase in Hodgkin lymphoma risk in people who smoke.
Research has shown an increased risk of Hodgkin lymphoma for people who are very overweight (obese). One study showed the risk may be higher in women than men.
Rated 5 out of 5 based on 92 votes
Question about cancer? Contact our information nurse team