Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma

Causes & Risk Factors

The incidence of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma has increased dramatically over the last couple of decades. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma has gone from being relatively rare to being the fifth most common cancer in the United States. At this time, little is known about the reasons for this increase or about exactly what causes non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, we only know some of the risk factors of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Doctors can seldom explain why one person gets non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and another does not. It is clear, however, that cancer is not caused by an injury, and is not contagious; no one can "catch" non-Hodgkin's lymphoma from another person.

By studying patterns of cancer in the population, researchers have found certain risk factors that are more common in people who get non-Hodgkin's lymphoma than in those who do not. However, most people with these risk factors do not get non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and many who do get this disease have none of the known risk factors.

The following are some of the risk factors for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma:

  • Age/Sex -- The likelihood of getting non-Hodgkin's lymphoma increases with age and is more common in men than in women.

  • Weakened Immune System -- Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is more common among people with inherited immune deficiencies, autoimmune diseases, or HIV/AIDS, and among people taking immunosuppressant drugs following organ transplants.

  • Viruses -- Human T-lymphotropic virus type I (HTLV-1) and Epstein-Barr virus are two infectious agents that increase the chance of developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

  • Environment -- People who work extensively with or are otherwise exposed to certain chemicals, such as pesticides, solvents, or fertilizers, have a greater chance of developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

People who are concerned about non-Hodgkin's lymphoma should talk with their doctor about the disease, the symptoms to watch for, and an appropriate schedule for checkups. The doctor's advice will be based on the person's age, medical history, and other factors.

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