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Hodgkin Lymphoma Subtypes

The World Health Organization (WHO) divides Hodgkin lymphoma into two main subtypes. They are:

  • Classical Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Nodular lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin lymphoma

Classical Hodgkin lymphoma is characterized by the presence of both Hodgkin and Reed-Sternberg cells. Nodular lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin lymphoma is characterized by the presence of lymphocyte-predominant cells, sometimes termed “popcorn cells,” which are a variant of Reed-Sternberg cells.

It is important to know your subtype since it plays a large part in determining the type of treatment you will receive.

Classical Hodgkin Lymphoma

About 95 percent of people with Hodgkin lymphoma have classical Hodgkin lymphoma. This subtype is further divided into four distinct subtypes shown in the table below.

Classical Hodgkin Lymphoma Subtypes


Subtype Characteristics
Nodular Sclerosis 
  • Accounts for 70 percent of classical Hodgkin lymphoma cases
  • Most common type in young adults  
  • Involved lymph nodes contain elements of fibrous tissues (sclerosis)
  • Incidence similar in males and females
  • Highly curable
  • B symptoms in approximately 40 percent of cases
Mixed Cellularity 
  • Accounts for 20-25 percent of classical Hodgkin lymphoma cases
  • Most common in older adults
  • Most common in males
  • More prevalent in patients with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infection
  • Involved lymph nodes contain Reed-Sternberg cells and several other cell types
  • B symptoms common
  • Accounts for approximately 5 percent of classical Hodgkin lymphoma cases
  • Involved lymph nodes contain numerous normal-appearing lymphocytes and Reed-Sternberg cells
  • Usually diagnosed at an early stage
  • More common in males
  • B symptoms are rare
  • Rarest classical Hodgkin lymphoma subtype
  • Involved lymph nodes contain few normal lymphocytes and numerous Reed-Sternberg cells
  • Median age range 30-37 years
  • More prevalent in patients with HIV infection
  • Usually diagnosed at an advance stage
  • B symptoms common

Nodular Lymphocyte-Predominant Hodgkin Lymphoma

Nodular lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin lymphoma (NLPHL) affects about 5 percent of Hodgkin lymphoma patients. The following are some characteristics of NLPHL:

  • Most common in 30 to 50 year-old age group
  • More common in males
  • Slow growing and can relapse many years later
  • Highly curable.
  • Small risk of transformation to aggressive non-Hodgkin lymphoma (7 percent of cases)

Related Links

  • Download or order The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's free booklet, Hodgkin Lymphoma.