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Causes and Risk Factors

For most people who have Hodgkin lymphoma, there are no obvious reasons (risk factors) why they developed the disease. The results of certain studies about the causes of Hodgkin lymphoma aren't definitive:

  • Many studies of links between Hodgkin lymphoma and environmental exposures have been conducted with unclear results.
  • Although Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) has been associated with nearly half of Hodgkin lymphoma cases, EBV hasn't been conclusively established as a cause.
  • Most cases of Hodgkin lymphoma occur in people who don't have identifiable risk factors.
  • Most people with identifiable risk factors don't develop Hodgkin lymphoma.
  • Experts have found that, occasionally, siblings of people with Hodgkin lymphoma tend to have higher rates of the disease than those people with brothers and sisters who don't have the disease. Although the link isn't common, scientists are studying why lymphoma is more common in some families than in others.

You can't catch the disease from someone else.

How Does Hodgkin Lymphoma Develop?

Hodgkin lymphoma starts when an abnormal change to a white cell called a lymphocyte causes it to become a lymphoma cell. Lymphoma cells grow and form masses, usually in the lymph nodes, located throughout our bodies in the lymphatic system.

Lymphoma cells can also gather in other areas of the body where lymphoid tissue is found. If untreated, the cancerous cells crowd out normal white cells, and the immune system can't guard against infection effectively.

Hodgkin lymphoma is distinguished from other types of lymphoma by the presence of Reed-Sternberg cells (named for the scientists who first identified them). Other cells associated with the disease are called Hodgkin cells.

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last updated on Thursday, March 15, 2012
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