Lymphoma - Hodgkin - Risk Factors

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 09/2016

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about the factors that increase the chance of developing this type of lymphoma. To see other pages, use the menu.

A risk factor is anything that increases a person’s chance of developing cancer. Although risk factors often influence the development of cancer, most do not directly cause cancer. Some people with several risk factors never develop cancer, while others with no known risk factors do. However, knowing your risk factors and talking about them with your doctor may help you make more informed lifestyle and health care choices.

The exact cause of Hodgkin lymphoma is not known, but the following factors may raise a person’s risk of developing Hodgkin lymphoma:

  • Age. People between the ages of 15 and 40 and people older than 55 are more likely to develop Hodgkin lymphoma.

  • Gender. In general, men are slightly more likely to develop Hodgkin lymphoma than women, although the nodular sclerosis subtype is more common for women.

  • Family history. Brothers and sisters of people with Hodgkin lymphoma have a higher chance of developing the disease, although the increase in risk is small.

  • Virus exposure. The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) causes infectious mononucleosis or "mono." Nearly all adult Americans and many others around the world have been infected with EBV. About 20% to 25% of people with cHL in the United States have lymphoma cells that test positive for EBV. However, the role of EBV in the development of Hodgkin lymphoma is not yet clear. Although a person’s immune system response to an infection with EBV may be important in the development of Hodgkin lymphoma, doctors still don’t understand why when so many people have been infected with EBV, relatively very few people ever develop Hodgkin lymphoma. People with HIV infection also have a higher risk of developing Hodgkin lymphoma, particularly lymphocyte-depleted Hodgkin lymphoma (see the Introduction).

The next section in this guide is Symptoms and Signs. It explains what body changes or medical problems this disease can cause. Or, use the menu to choose another section to continue reading this guide.