Can non-Hodgkin lymphoma in children be prevented?
The risk of many adult cancers can be reduced by doing certain things such as maintaining a healthy weight or quitting smoking, but there is currently no known way to prevent most childhood cancers.
Most children (and adults) with non-Hodgkin lymphoma have no known risk factors, so at this time there is no way to prevent these lymphomas.
For now, the best way to reduce the risk for non-Hodgkin lymphoma is to try to prevent known risk factors such as a weakened immune system.
The most common cause of acquired immune problems is HIV infection. HIV is spread among adults mostly through unprotected sex and sharing of contaminated needles by injection drug users. Medical advances have nearly eliminated contaminated blood transfusions as a source of HIV infections.
Children generally get HIV infection from contact with their mother’s blood, usually before or during birth. Treating the pregnant woman with anti-HIV drugs can greatly reduce the risk of infecting her infant. HIV can also be passed on in breast milk, so HIV-positive mothers are advised not to breastfeed.
Some cases of non-Hodgkin lymphoma are caused by the treatment of other cancers with radiation and chemotherapy or by the use of immune-suppressing drugs to avoid rejection of transplanted organs. Doctors are trying to find better ways to treat these conditions without raising the risk of lymphoma. But for now, the small risk of developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma several years later due to treatment must be balanced against the risks of these life-threatening diseases themselves.
Last Medical Review: 10/09/2012
Last Revised: 01/17/2013