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Researchers don’t quite understand exactly what causes lymphoma, but they do know that certain characteristics can increase a person’s risk of developing the disease. For instance, a compromised immune system that results from a condition like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, HIV or AIDS can make a person more likely to develop lymphoma than an individual with a stronger immune system.

How DNA changes can cause lymphoma

Although researchers are still working to determine what causes lymphoma, they have learned important information about the DNA changes that occur when healthy cells become lymphoma cells:

  • Division is part of the normal cellular process. When a healthy cell prepares to divide into two new cells, it creates a copy of the DNA within its chromosomes. Sometimes, the copied DNA may not be an exact match of the original.
  • If a DNA mutation “tells” an oncogene (a gene that can cause cancer) to turn on or “tells” a tumor suppressor gene (a gene that protects healthy cells from cancer) to turn off, lymphoma might eventually develop as a result.
  • If DNA breaks off from one chromosome and attaches itself to another chromosome, it can cause an oncogene to activate or interfere with the function of a tumor suppressor gene. This can prevent a healthy cell from dying when it is supposed to, which might ultimately trigger the development of lymphoma.

Moffitt Cancer Center’s dedicated research team is continually working to better understand what causes lymphoma. Through clinical trials and lab studies, we’re learning more about the DNA changes that can cause lymphocytes to become cancerous, as well as how these cells respond to various therapies. This is helping us to further refine our approach to treatment every single day, as we discover new and better therapy options for patients with Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Referrals are not required to consult with the experts at Moffitt. Our oncologists can help you understand what causes lymphoma and what can be done to treat it; to make an appointment, call 1-888-663-3488, or complete our convenient new patient registration form.