Risk Factors for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is among the most common cancers in the United States. This life-threatening disease accounts for four percent of all cancer diagnoses in the country.

The American Cancer Society, in its recent article, has estimated that around 80,550 people will be diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2023. Around 35,670 females and 44,880 males, including children, are predicted to develop this disease. That’s alarming.

Despite decades of intensive research, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is incurable. However, understanding the risk factors can help in the prevention and early detection of the disease. In this article, we’ll delve into a few risk factors associated with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

#1 Age

While non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma can occur at any age, the risk increases as a person gets older. A recent NIH publication reveals that this disease mostly affects older people, with the average age being 67.

The age-related risk is not yet fully understood, but it’s believed that genetic mutations in the DNA cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in older people. Note that changes in genes linked with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma aren’t inherited but acquired during life.

While several environmental factors cause changes in the genes, many times, these changes occur due to no obvious reason. Such genetic mutations happen more frequently as a person gets older, which explains why most lymphomas are common among older people.

However, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma can also occur in children and young adults. Several subtypes of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, like Burkitt lymphoma, or BL, a rare, fast-growing type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, are the most common among young adults and children.

Unlike adults, changes in the genes aren’t responsible for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in children. Instead, a weakened immune system is linked with the cancer of the lymphatic system.

#2 Autoimmune Diseases

An early nationwide cohort study has found a link between non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and autoimmune diseases. Patients with histories of autoimmune diseases like celiac disease, Hashimoto’s or hypothyroidism, Crohn’s disease, and sarcoidosis are at an increased risk of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Studies have also found a link between polyarteritis nodosa, systemic sclerosis, discoid/systemic lupus erythematosus (DLE/SLE), psoriasis, hemolytic anemia, Sjögren syndrome, and rheumatoid arthritis and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Immunological abnormalities and immunosuppressive therapy are believed to play a role in the development of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in patients with autoimmune diseases.

#3 Chemical Exposure

Occupational exposure to chemicals has been linked with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, reveals an early Annals of Oncology article. The study further reveals that males exposed to herbicides, pesticides, lubricating oil, minerals, and benzidine are at an increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Exposure to wood dust and pesticides is believed to contribute to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in women.

A 2021 study by The Lancet Planetary Health concluded that exposure to benzene puts people at risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Benzene, the backbone of the chemical manufacturing industry, is classified as a Group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

Factory workers aren’t the only ones exposed to benzene. People who work in laboratories, gas stations, the printing industry, and the firefighting industry are at greater risk of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and specific subtypes than those who don’t.

Oddly enough, recent studies have found traces of benzene in many popular sunscreens.

Incidences of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma have also been high among veterans of Camp Lejeune. In fact, it was one of the many life-threatening conditions that veterans and their families developed after exposure to benzene in the military base’s water.

For those unversed, let us tell you that benzene was one of the toxic compounds found in the drinking water supply of the military base. Besides benzene, trichloroethylene, perchloroethylene, and vinyl chloride are substances that polluted Camp Lejeune’s water supply, notes TorHoerman Law.

However, the law allows veterans and their families to claim compensation for the damage sustained due to exposure to contaminated water. Since the passing of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022, civilians and veterans can claim compensation by filing the Camp Lejeune lawsuit against the U.S. government.

On average, the payout for Camp Lejeune lawsuits could range from $10,000 to $500,000. Of course, it depends on the strength of the case.

The Bottom Line

To sum it up, the exact cause of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is yet to be known. However, many studies have revealed genetic mutations and age to be the cause of this life-threatening disease.

Note that these aren’t the only risk factors for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Radiation therapy, obesity, and organ transplantation are a few other factors that are linked with cancer of the lymphatic system.

Unfortunately, there is no way you can protect yourself from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. But you can certainly lower your risk by limiting exposure to chemicals. If you’re obese, try maintaining a healthy weight. That’s because obesity could also increase your risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Last but not least, regular check-ups and cancer screenings can help in early detection of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

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