The exact causes of lymphoma are not known. Several factors have been linked to an increased risk of developing lymphoma, but it is unclear what role they play in the actual development of lymphoma. These risk factors include the following:

  • Age: Generally the risk of NHL increases with advancing age. HL in the elderly is associated with a poorer prognosis than that observed in younger patients.
  • Infections
    • Infection with HIV
    • Infection with human T-lymphocytic virus type 1 (HTLV-1)
    • Infection with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), one of the etiologic factors in mononucleosis
    • Infection with Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium that lives in the digestive tract

Infection with hepatitis B or hepatitis C virus


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    • Medical conditions that compromise the immune system
      • HIV
      • Autoimmune disease
      • Diseases requiring immune suppressive therapy, often used following organ transplant
      • Inherited immunodeficiency diseases (severe combined immunodeficiency, ataxia telangiectasia, among a host of others)


  • Exposure to toxic chemicals
    • Farm work or an occupation with exposure to certain toxic chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides, or benzene and/or other solvents
    • Black hair dye, which for more than 20 years has been linked to higher rates of NHL

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