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Lymphoma is cancer that starts in lymphatic or lymph tissue. There are two types of lymphomas, Hodgkins lymphoma or Hodgkins disease and non-Hodgkins lymphoma (NHL). Non-Hodgkins lymphomas are the most common and often are divided into types based on how the cells look under a microscope and their pattern of growth. There are about 30 different types of NHL. The classification system is very complex and can be confusing. In Los Angeles County, about 6,625 people will be diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma and Hodgkins disease in 2007. Of those, 2,280 will die.

Key Facts
NHL is more common in men than in women. Whites are affected more often than African Americans or Asians. Although some types of NHL are among the most common childhood cancers, more than nine out of 10 NHL cases occur in adults.

Risk Factors
Most patients with NHL have no known risk factors. However, scientists have found a few factors that may increase risk. They include:
  • Age  - Most cases are found in people in their 60s.
  • Immune Function - Children who are born with an immune system that doesn’t function properly are at increased risk.
  • Exposure - Survivors of atomic bombs or nuclear reactor accidents have a higher risk.
  • Radiation Treatment – Those treated with radiation for some other cancers are at slightly higher risk. The risk increases if both radiation and chemotherapy were used.
  • HIV - Infection with the AIDS virus increases risk for certain types of NHL.

Most people who have NHL don’t have any known risk factors. The cause of their cancer is unknown. The best way to prevent some cases of this cancer is to prevent known risk factors.  One example is reducing the spread of AIDS.

Progress has been made in recent years in treating NHL. Treatment options depend on the kind of lymphoma and its stage. Surgery is not often used to treat NHL, although it may be used to get a sample of the cancer for classification. Treatment options include chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapies such as Interferon and monoclonal antibodies, and stem cell transplantation.

Sources: American Cancer Society, California Cancer Registry

Last updated: 7/10/2008 10:59:32 AM