A risk factor is any factor that is associated with increasing someone’s chances of developing a certain condition, such as cancer. Some risk factors are modifiable, such as lifestyle or environmental risk factors, and others cannot be modified, such as inherited factors or whether someone in the family has had cancer.
Having 1 or more risk factors does not mean that you will develop cancer. Many people have at least 1 risk factor but will never develop cancer, while others with cancer may have had no known risk factors. Even if a person with cancer has a risk factor, it is usually hard to know how much that risk factor contributed to the development of their disease.
Factors that are associated with a higher risk of developing lymphoma include the following:
- Hodgkin lymphoma
- age – Hodgkin lymphoma is more common in early adulthood (especially in people in their 20s) and later adulthood (after 55 years)
- sex of the patient – males are at slightly greater risk
- infection with Epstein–Barr virus
- having a first-degree relative with Hodgkin lymphoma
- infection with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
- age – most cases occur in people older than 60
- sex of the patient – males are at slightly greater risk; however, certain types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma are more common in women
- exposure to solvents such as benzene, certain herbicides and pesticides, and some chemotherapy medicines; however, these links have not been confirmed
- exposure to radiation
- a weakened immune system, as a result of infection (such as with HIV), certain medicines (such as immunosuppressant medicines taken by people who have had an organ transplant) or genetic syndromes
- autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis or systemic lupus erythematosus
- infection with HIV, Epstein–Barr virus, human T-cell leukaemia/lymphoma virus (HTLV-1) or human herpesvirus 8; some other chronic infections that cause the immune system to be constantly activated can also increase the risk
- a diet high in meat and fat.
Find out more:
Lifestyle and risk reduction
Position Statement on Lifestyle risk factors and the primary prevention of cancer
- American Cancer Society. Hodgkin disease http://www.cancer.org/cancer/hodgkindisease/index (accessed 27 May 2015).
- National Cancer Institute (2014). Adult Hodgkin lymphoma treatment (PDQ®) http://www.cancer.gov/types/lymphoma/patient/adult-hodgkin-treatment-pdq, patient version (accessed 27 May 2015).
- American Cancer Society. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma http://www.cancer.org/cancer/non-hodgkinlymphoma/index (accessed 27 May 2015).
- American Cancer Society. Lymphoma of the skin http://www.cancer.org/cancer/lymphomaoftheskin/index (accessed 27 May 2015).
- National Cancer Institute (2014). Adult non-Hodgkin lymphoma treatment (PDQ®) http://www.cancer.gov/types/lymphoma/patient/adult-nhl-treatment-pdq, patient version (accessed 27 May 2015).