Despite the marvels of modern medicine, cancer remains an enigma. The same is true for lymphoma. Researchers are still trying to understand what causes lymphoma. Doctors do not know what causes it, only that some people are more susceptible to it. Certain risk factors have been identified by medical researchers, although they still do not understand why these risk factors make lymphoma more likely.




  • Age – non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas mostly occur in people over the age of 60, so getting older is a strong risk factor for lymphoma.
  • Gender – the overall risk is higher in men, but there is a variation in occurrence of different types of lymphoma across the sexes.
  • Race and ethnicity – African-Americans and Asians are less prone than Caucasians.
  • Geography – the disease is more common in developed nations of the world and the United States and Europe have the highest rates.
  • Chemicals – some chemicals used in agriculture may be linked with an increased risk of lymphoma, but research is still underway.
  • Radiation – survivors or atomic bombs and nuclear radiation exposure have been shown to have an increased risk of several types of cancer including lymphoma.
  • Immune system deficiency – people with weak immune systems are at increased risk of lymphoma. For example, people with HIV infection or people who have had organ transplantation (and are on drugs to suppress the immune system to prevent organ rejection).
  • Autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, SLE, and Sjogren’s have been linked to an increased risk of lymphoma. In these conditions, the immune system attacks the body’s own cells.
  • Infection – certain viral and bacterial infections are suspected to increase the risk of lymphoma by transforming the lymphocytes or weakening the immune system.
  • Body weight and diet – some studies suggest that being overweight and eating a diet rich in fats may raise your risk of lymphoma.
  • Breast implants – in very rare cases, lymphomas have been noted in the scar tissue surrounding breast implants. 




  • Infectious mononucleosis – infection with Epstein-Barr virus, called mono for short.
  • Age – two specific demographics are most susceptible – early adulthood 15-40 (typically people in their 20s) and late adulthood (people over the age of 55 years).
  • Gender – slightly more common in men.
  • Geography – most common in the United States, Canada, and northern Europe; least common in Asia.
  • Family history – if a sibling has the condition, the risk is slightly higher. The risk is very high if there is an identical twin with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but lymphoma is not inherited – it is not passed down from generation to generation. Most people with lymphoma have no family history of the disease.
  • Affluence – people from higher socioeconomic status have been found to be at greater risk.
  • HIV infection – the risk of Hodgkin’s disease is greater in people infected with the HIV virus that causes AIDS.


The presence of these risk factors does not mean a person will actually develop lymphoma. In fact, most people with one or more of these risk factors do not develop lymphoma. Risk factors are things that have been linked with certain types of lymphoma or are seen more often in people with lymphoma. They are not a cause on their own. In most cases, the cause of lymphoma remains unknown. There is little to no evidence to suggest that anything a person has done – or not done – has caused them to develop lymphoma.