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What Causes Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma?


Updated January 14, 2014

A mysterious disease:


An exact cause of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma is still unknown. Scientists have not yet identified what exactly makes a lymphocyte go haywire and transform into a lymphoma cell. But there are some conditions that make a person more likely to get a Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. Here is what we know about them...


A cancer caused by microbes?:


An association has been found between Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and certain infections - HTLV-1, Epstein-Barr (EBV) virus, Hepatitis C virus, Helicobacter pylori, a bacteria that may cause lymphomas of the stomach and HIV, the "AIDS" virus. Infection with any of these increases the risk of later development of lymphoma. It is possible that these microbes may enter the lymphocytes and change them into cacer cells.


A weak immune system?:


Lymhoma is a cancer of the immune system. Conditions which weaken the immune system may also result in a hgher risk of developing lymphomas -

  • The most talked about is HIV, which caused AIDS ( a kind of immune failure disease).
  • Patients who get organ transplantation need to take drugs which suppress the immune system. This also seems to increase chances of lymphoma.
  • Some inherited diseases affecting the immune system e.g., ataxia telangiectasia.


Chemicals and lymphoma:


Long-term exposure to some chemicals have also been associated with lymphomas. They include benzene, herbicides (weed killers), pesticides (insect killers).


Previous treatment for other cancers:


Individuals who have received chemotherapy or radiation therapy for previous cancers have a slightly greater chance of developing Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.

Rarely persons suffering from Hodgkin Lymphoma can change to Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma many years after treatment.


Age and sex :


When researchers crunch numbers, they find that chances of getting Non-Hodgkin lymphoma increases as you get older. It is also more common in men than women.


Far from solving the puzzle:


The fact remains that most people who have the risk factors mentioned above never get a lymphoma, and similarly most of the individuals who have a lymphoma don't have any of the risk factors. Scientists are far from solving the puzzle of what causes Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.


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