What Are The Causes of Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma?

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Some of the questions all people diagnosed with cancer want to know are, how did I develop this cancer? What caused this to occur? And the unfortunate answer to almost all the questions all of the time is that nobody can say for certain what caused one person's cancer to the exclusion of all other possible causes. It is simply beyond the ability of science to say what caused a particular cancer to begin.

This is true for all cancers, including lymphomas. However, scientists and researchers can say, speaking broadly, what can often be the cause of lymphoma in general.

Environmental Exposures

There are tens of thousands of chemicals being used every day in the United States that have not been explored as possible human carcinogens but quite possibly could be cancer-causing. On the other hand, many such chemicals have been determined to cause cancer, specifically lymphoma, and strong epidemiological associations between these environmental exposures and lymphoma have been made.

Viral and Bacterial Sources

In some rare instances, the cause of lymphoma can be from a viral or bacterial source. The bacterium H. Pylori has been scientifically linked to a subtype of lymphoma that occurs in the stomach, and specific viruses such as the HTLV-1 retrovirus, the Epstein-Barr virus and the HIV virus have been linked to some aggressive subtypes of lymphoma.

Auto-Immune Disorders

Although the mechanism remains unclear, many people who have been diagnosed with auto-immune disorders—disorders in which the patient's immune system inappropriately attacks some part of their body—such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis tend to be at a higher risk of developing certain lymphomas than people who do not have auto-immune disorders. Furthermore, there is an association between the drugs given to these patients, known as TNF blockers, and a greater risk of developing lymphoma.

There are other risk factors as well for lymphoma, but these are not necessarily the cause of a lymphoma. That much cannot be determined.

Another potential cause of some lymphomas include the actual chemotherapy or radiation treatment a patient has received for a prior primary cancer, which would be referred to as a secondary cancer.

The best advice anyone can receive to do their best to prevent the development of lymphoma or cancer in general is to eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, maintain a healthy weight, and get plenty of exercise.

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