Lymphoma - Hodgkin: Risk Factors

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 03/2022

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about the factors that increase the chance of developing Hodgkin lymphoma. Use the menu to see other pages.

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 develop cancer. 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 in women (see the Introduction).

  • 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, often called "mono." Nearly all adult Americans and many others around the world have had an EBV infection. About 20% to 25% of people with classic Hodgkin lymphoma (cHL) in the United States have lymphoma cells that test positive for EBV. Although a person’s immune system response to an infection with EBV may be important in the development of Hodgkin lymphoma, doctors still do not understand why, when so many people have been infected with EBV, relatively very few people ever develop Hodgkin lymphoma. People with HIV also have a higher risk of developing Hodgkin lymphoma, particularly mixed cellularity and lymphocyte-depleted Hodgkin lymphomas (see the Introduction). Research is ongoing to learn more.

The next section in this guide is Symptoms and Signs. It explains what changes or medical problems Hodgkin lymphoma can cause. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.