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Hodgkin's Lymphoma Facts

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 8,500 people are diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in the United States each year. It occurs mainly in people:

  • Between 16 and 34 years of age
  • Over age 55

Most patients with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, even in advanced stages, can be treated successfully. However, treatment may cause late side effects, and sometimes the disease returns.

Lymphoma is a general term for cancers that develop in the lymph system, which is part of the body’s immune system. Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a type of lymphoma that develops in the white blood cells. It is different from other lymphomas because it contains Reed-Sternberg cells, which is a specific type of large cancer cell that is found with light microscopy in biopsies. While Hodgkin’s lymphoma can start in the lymph nodes, it can spread to almost any organ or tissue, including the liver, bone marrow and spleen.

Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Types

Hodgkin’s lymphoma is divided into two major types, as well as subtypes, according to how the lymph cells look under a microscope and how many Reed-Sternberg cells are present. Knowing the type of lymphoma helps doctors determine your best treatment.

Classical Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is the most common type in the United States. It accounts for about 95% of cases and is the most curable Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Subtypes include:

Nodular Sclerosing Hodgkin’s Lymphoma: The affected lymph nodes have mixed areas of normal cells, Reed-Sternberg cells and prominent scar tissue. This is the most common type, making up 60% to 80% of cases. It is more common in adolescents and young adults, but it can occur at any age.

Lymphocyte-rich Classical Hodgkin’s Lymphoma: This recently created subtype in the past was confused sometimes with lymphocyte-predominant lymphoma. It is similar to mixed cellularity Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Mixed Cellularity Hodgkin’s Lymphoma: The affected lymph nodes contain many Reed-Sternberg cells in addition to several other cell types. Mixed cellularity accounts for about 25% to 30% of cases of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It primarily affects older adults.

Lymphocyte Depletion Hodgkin’s Lymphoma: Large numbers of Reed-Sternberg cells, but very few other cell types, are found in the lymph nodes. This is the least common form of Hodgkin's lymphoma, and it is seen more often in people who are elderly or have AIDS.

Lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, also called nodular lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This rare lymphoma is:

  • Usually diagnosed at an early stage with an excellent survival rate
  • More common among men between 35 and 40
In rare cases, Hodgkin's lymphoma can be passed down from one generation to the next. Genetic counseling may be right for you. Visit our genetic testing page to learn more.

Lymphoma Risk Factors

Anything that increases your chance of getting Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a risk factor. Although Hodgkin’s lymphoma usually develops in people who have no risk factors, the following things may mean you are more likely to develop it:

  • Age: Hodgkin’s lymphoma is most common in young adults (15 to 40 years) and older adults (over 55 years old).
  • Gender: Males are slightly more likely to develop Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
  • Viruses: The risk is small, but some viruses may make you more likely to get Hodgkin’s lymphoma. These include:
    • Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)
    • Infectious mononucleosis (mono)
    • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
    • Human T-cell lymphocytotropic virus (HTLV)
  • Family history: If you have a parent, brother or sister with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, you have an increased risk of developing the disease.

Not everyone with risk factors gets Hodgkin’s lymphoma. However, if you have risk factors, you should discuss them with your doctor.

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