One of the most common questions we receive from readers is “what causes lymphoma” or “what causes cancer” and one of the most common questions lymphoma patients ask is “how did I get lymphoma.” Generally, the answer from a knowledgeable physician or advocate starts out something like this: “we do not know for sure what causes lymphoma in any individual, but there are certain risk factors and associations that have been identified.” Though this answer may be fair and accurate, it is unsatisfactory. Curiosity may kill a cat, but a better understanding of “what causes cancer” will save untold lives through prevention and through the development of better treatments. We now examine some of these risk factors and associations.
There is evidence suggesting associations between some lymphomas and environmental and occupational exposures to some chemicals, including: benzene; petrochemicals and combustion by-products (such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and soot); some pesticides, fungicides, insecticides, and herbicides (such as Agent Orange used in Vietnam); hair dyes, polychlorinated biphenyls, and solvents (such as styrene, trichloroethylene, and tetrachloroethylene). The associations are stronger in some instances than in others.
People who suffer from some auto-immune disorders (such as Sorgen’s Syndrome, Rheumatoid arthritis, and Lupus) may be at a higher risk of developing some lymphomas than people who do not suffer from these disorders. Recipients of organ transplants also are more likely to develop lymphoma as are people with AIDS.
Even items intended to heal people, also may cause lymphoma. For example, there are associations between some prescription medicines – such as TNF Blockers — and lymphoma. Even cancer treatments – such as chemotherapy and radiation – may cause some lymphomas as well. And hardly a week goes without a news report about possible links between diet and cancer.
Lymphomas are not contagious. Yet exposure to some bacteria and viruses causes some lymphomas. Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), for example, is linked to the endemic type of Burkitt’s lymphoma in Africa. In Western Countries, a very high percentage of patients with Hodgkin lymphoma have or had EBV. Helicobacter pylori and hepatitis C are also associated with some lymphomas. Simply stated, there are associations between exposures to toxins, viruses, and other substances and some lymphomas. A 2012 American Society of Hematology report by leading lymphoma physicians provides important information on the epidemiology of lymphomas as well as on exciting developments in immunotherapies. http://asheducationbook.hematologylibrary.org/content/2002/1/241.full.
We know that there is more to the equation than exposures to toxins and viruses. After all, many people exposed to these agents do not get lymphoma and many people with lymphoma do not have known exposures to these agents. Our immune system plays a critical role in defeating cancer and lymphoma actually is cancer of the immune system. This is why understanding what causes lymphoma is critically important not only for lymphoma, but also for unlocking the mysteries to other cancers and other diseases. This is one of the many reasons why we say that lymphoma research is the super highway to curing cancer.
Usually, when we discuss cancer research, the focus is on developing new and more efficacious treatments. But another critical aspect of cancer research involves the epidemiology of cancer – or the investigation into the causes of cancer. Understanding what causes cancer provides important insights into how to prevent cancer. http://nextooze.com/article/cancer-prevention-101-preventing-cancer-is-better-than-treating-cancer. It also fosters the development of better treatments. Fortunately, there are dedicated researchers around the globe investigating the causes of lymphoma. More importantly, they are working collaboratively – sharing their discoveries, statistics, and insights. Such collaborative efforts benefit all of us by hastening the pace of medical advancement. The International Lymphoma Epidemiology Consortium (InterLymph) is an international group of leading medical investigators engaged in research on the epidemiology of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
If you would like to learn more about the causes of lymphoma, join us on May 15th at 7:00 p.m. Central time for the “Battling And Beating Cancer Radio Show” on the Blog Talk Radio network. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/battling-and-beating-cancer. We will be interviewing some world renowned cancer researchers from InterLymph, tacking the issue of what causes lymphoma and discussing some of their studies. Joining us will be esteemed medical researchers: Dennis Weisenburger (University of Nebraska); Tina Clarke (Cancer Prevention Institute of California); Sophia Wang (City of Hope); and Claire Vajdic (University of South Wales). Chicago Blood Cancer Foundation and Lymphoma Coalition have joined forces to bring together this international panel. Here is the link for you to listen live on May 15 or on demand thereafter. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/battling-and-beating-cancer/2012/05/16/what-causes-lymphoma-and-how-do-we-prevent-it-and-cure-it. If have any questions about the etiology of lymphoma, join us live to ask them to these leading researchers or submit your questions as comments below.