Lymphoma is a type of cancer that results from abnormal growth of lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. Although scientists know that this change in cell growth is why lymphoma develops, they aren’t yet sure what causes this change to happen in the first place. Researchers believe that this is because lymphoma can be caused by many different things that all affect the gene in a small way—this is referred to as the “multi-hit theory.”
Though there are no specific “causes” of lymphoma, there are certain risk factors that are often seen in people with lymphoma or have been known to be linked to certain types of lymphoma. However, none of these factors are a cause on their own.
Problems With the Immune System
If your immune system does not work normally, this will put you at a higher risk for developing a lymphoma. This could occur because of taking immunosuppressive medications, having human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), having an inherited immune system disorder, or having an autoimmune disorder.
There are certain infections that are linked to types of lymphoma. These infections include: Epstein-Barr virus, HTLV-1, HHV-8, hepatitis C, helicobacter pylori, Chlamydia psittaci, campylobacter jejuni, and borrelia burgdorferi. It is important to note that many of these infections are common and most people affected by them do not develop lymphoma. This indicates that other factors must be present in order to a lymphoma to develop.
Lymphoma is not an inherited disease, meaning that it is not passed down from generation to generation. If you have a parent or sibling who has had lymphoma, you are at a slightly higher risk for developing lymphoma yourself. However, the increase in risk will be much lower than other types of cancer, such as breast cancer.
Previous Cancer Treatments
If you have had cancer before and received chemotherapy or radiation as part of your treatment, this can increase your risk for developing lymphoma. This is because these treatments cause significant damage to the genes of your lymphocytes.
As with all types cancer, older age will put you at a higher risk for developing lymphoma. This is because the older your body is, the less likely that your body will be able to repair damages in the genes.
There are certain things about your lifestyle that could contribute to your risk of lymphoma. Smoking can increase your risk for certain types, but not nearly as much as other types of cancer. Eating a diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables instead of red meat and animal fat will make you less likely to develop lymphoma. Getting regular physical exercise is shown to lower your risk of lymphoma as well. Also, obesity has been shown to be linked to lymphoma in some studies.
For certain types of lymphoma, being exposed to industrial chemicals, pesticides, and hair dyes are risk factors for developing the disease.