Hodgkin Disease Overview

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Causes, Risk Factors, and Prevention TOPICS

What are the risk factors for Hodgkin disease?

We do not yet know exactly what causes Hodgkin disease, but we do know that certain risk factors are linked to the disease. A risk factor is something that affects a person’s chance of getting a disease such as cancer. Different cancers have different risk factors. Some risk factors, like smoking, can be changed. Others, like a person’s age or family history, can’t be changed.

Scientists have found a few risk factors that may make a person more likely to get Hodgkin disease, although it’s not always clear why these factors increase risk. But having a risk factor, or even several, doesn’t mean that a person will get the disease. Likewise, having few or no risk factors doesn’t mean a person won’t get the disease.

Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection/mononucleosis: People who have had “mono” (infectious mononucleosis), caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, have a higher risk of Hodgkin disease. The overall risk is still very small. Many people are infected with EBV, but very few get Hodgkin disease.

Age: Hodgkin disease is most common in early adulthood (age 15 to 40, especially in a person’s 20s) and in late adulthood (after age 55). But it can occur at any age.

Gender: Slightly more males than females get Hodgkin disease.

Geography: Hodgkin disease is most common in the United States, Canada, and northern Europe, and least common in Asian countries.

Family history: Brothers and sisters of young people with Hodgkin disease have a higher risk for this disease. The risk is very high for an identical twin of a person with Hodgkin disease. But still, a family link is not common – most people with Hodgkin disease do not have a family history of it.

Socioeconomic status: The risk of Hodgkin disease is greater in people with a higher income and educational background. The reason for this is not clear.

HIV infection: The risk of Hodgkin disease is higher in people who have HIV (the virus that causes AIDS).

Last Medical Review: 08/19/2014
Last Revised: 01/13/2015