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The specific causes of Hodgkin lymphoma are still being studied. However, researchers do know that in most instances, the cancer develops as a result of genetic mutations in the B cells, which are responsible for fighting off infections. When a mutation occurs in cellular DNA, the affected cells can divide much more rapidly than normal while also failing to die off at the end of their life cycle. This can lead to an accumulation of oversized, rapidly reproducing B cells in the lymphatic system. These abnormal cells can then spread to the bone marrow, spleen, liver, lungs and other organs.

There are several different genetic mutations that might contribute to the development of Hodgkin lymphoma, including:

  • Point mutations (a change in a single gene in which one pair of the gene’s DNA sequence is altered)
  • Chromosomal instability (situations in which entire chromosomes or large portions of chromosomes are changed)
  • Translocations (a rearrangement of chromosomes)
  • Gene amplifications (an increase in the number of copies of a gene)
  • Gene deletions (a situation in which part of a chromosome or a sequence of DNA is lost during the DNA replication process)

Researchers currently believe that, in some instances, these DNA mutations are caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. This virus is thought to be a potential “transforming agent” – an agent that can cause healthy cells to become cancerous – and around 50 percent of Hodgkin lymphoma cases carry this virus within the tumor cells.

At Moffitt Cancer Center, our research team is actively investigating the potential causes of Hodgkin lymphoma. The more we are able to learn about its development, the closer we can get to preventing it.

To learn more about Hodgkin lymphoma causes and risk factors, you can request an appointment with one of Moffitt’s experienced oncologists by calling 1-888-663-3488 or submitting a new patient registration form online. No referrals are necessary.