Lymphoma: What are the Risks?

Lymphoma is a cancer that starts in the infection-fighting cells of the immune system, called lymphocytes. These cells are in the lymph nodes, spleen, thymus, bone marrow and other parts of the body. There are many types of lymphoma, and the risk factors vary.

Having one or more risk factors does not mean that you will develop lymphoma. Most people who have an increased risk never develop the disease. However, It's important to know your family and medical history and recognize any genetic factors.

Hodgkin lymphoma risk factors:

  • Previous infection with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection or mononucleosis.
  • Weakened immune system.
  • Occurs most often in early adulthood (between ages 15-40, especially in the 20s) or late adulthood (after age 55).
  • About 5 percent of cases have a family link.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma risk factors:

  • Most cases occur in people older than 60.
  • Exposure to certain chemicals, including benzene and some herbicides and insecticides.
  • Previous chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
  • Radiation exposure.
  • Infection with HIV, HTLV-1, HHV8, or Epstein-Barr virus.
  • Chronic infection with HCV or Helicobacter pylori.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma in children:

  • Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome.
  • Severe combined immunodeficiency syndrome (SCID).
  • Ataxia-telangiectasia.
  • Common variable immunodeficiency.
  • Bloom syndrome.
  • X-linked lymphoproliferative syndrome.
  • Previous radiation exposure.
  • Infection with HIV, HTLV-1, HHV8, or Epstein-Barr virus.
  • Family history of NHL.

Lymphoma of the skin:

  • More common in men than women.
  • Most cases occur in people in their 50s and 60s. But some types of skin lymphoma can appear in younger people — even in children.
  • More common in African-Americans.
  • Infection with HIV, HTLV-1 or Epstein-Barr virus.
  • Previous organ transplants, such as a heart, kidney or liver transplant.

Never miss another Cancer Talk blog!

Sign up to receive our monthly Cancer Talk e-newsletter.

Sign up!