Researchers within the medical community are still working to determine exactly what causes lymphoma, so it’s not yet entirely clear how this condition develops. With that being said, studies show a link between certain DNA changes that trigger excessive cell division and the development of lymphoma.
Before getting into what these DNA changes are, it may help to explain why normal cell division occurs. Cells divide for several different reasons. For example, when an organism grows, its existing cells divide and produce additional cells rather than simply becoming larger. Cells also divide to replace existing cells that are either damaged, old or dead. Certain types of cells tend to divide more frequently than others. For instance, skin cells divide much more often than brain and nerve cells.
When a healthy cell is getting ready to divide into two cells, it needs a way to pass its genetic information along to the new cell. To accomplish this, it makes a copy of its DNA. Under ideal circumstances, the DNA copied to the new cell is an exact match. However, this doesn’t always happen, and when a change occurs in the original cell’s DNA sequence, it’s referred to as a mutation. If a DNA mutation causes an oncogene (a cancer-causing gene) to turn on or causes a tumor suppressor gene to turn off, it could eventually lead to the development of a malignancy such as lymphoma.
Lymphoma risk factors
Certain risk factors can increase the likelihood of developing lymphoma. For adult Hodgkin lymphoma, these include:
- Being a man
- Having the Epstein-Barr virus
- Having a family history of Hodgkin lymphoma
The risk factors associated with adult non-Hodgkin lymphoma include:
- Advanced age
- Being white
- Being a man
- Having an inherited immune disorder, such as hypogammaglobulinemia or Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome; an autoimmune disease, such as HIV/AIDS, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis or Sjögren’s syndrome; a human T-lymphotropic virus (type I); the Epstein-Barr virus or a history of Heliobacter pylori infection
- Having taken immunosuppressant drugs following an organ transplant
- Having been exposed to certain pesticides
- Eating a diet rich in meats and fat
- Having previously been treated for Hodgkin lymphoma
If you have one or more of these risk factors, it’s important to remember that this doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll develop lymphoma. Risk factors don’t directly cause lymphoma—they instead make it more likely that the malignancy will occur. Many people with multiple lymphoma risk factors never develop the malignancy, while others develop lymphoma without having any known risk factors. If you are at heightened risk, it’s important to keep an eye out for common lymphoma symptoms and consult with a physician about any concerns.
The team to choose for lymphoma diagnosis and treatment
If you’re worried that you might have lymphoma, you can turn to Moffitt Cancer Center for diagnosis and, if necessary, treatment. When it comes to cancer treatment, finding the right provider is key, and you can feel confident placing your health into the hands of Moffitt’s trusted specialists. We’re the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center based in Florida, and our state-of-the-art technology and experience lead to better outcomes for patients, as well as a high satisfaction rate and a better quality of life. The multispecialty team in our Malignant Hematology Program includes board-certified surgeons and physicians, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, radiologists, nurses, researchers and supportive care specialists, all of whom work together to provide our lymphoma patients with the best possible treatment experience.
To request a consultation with one of the specialists at Moffitt Cancer Center, call us at 1-888-663-3488 or fill out our new patient registration form online. Your cancer diagnosis is our top priority, so we’ll be sure to connect you with one of our cancer experts within just one day.