In most cases, the cause of lymphoma is not known.
What we do know is that lymphomas develop because of changes in the genes of a lymphocyte (a type of white blood cell). These changes alter how the cell grows and divides or may prevent it dying when it normally should do. What we don’t know so much about is what makes these changes happen.
The important things to know are:
- Lymphoma is not inherited (passed down in families from generation to generation).
- You can’t catch lymphoma from someone and you can’t give it to anyone else.
There is little or no evidence to suggest that anything you have done – or not done – has caused you to develop lymphoma.
Risk factors for lymphoma
Some things are known to increase the risk of developing lymphoma (these are called ‘risk factors’).
Risk factors are things that have been linked with certain types of lymphoma or are seen more often in people with lymphoma. On their own, they do not cause lymphoma.
Problems with the immune system, such as:
- having had an organ transplant and needing to take drugs to prevent rejection (immunosuppressive drugs)
- being infected with HIV, which weakens the immune system
- autoimmune disorders, for example Sjögren syndrome, which can over-stimulate the immune system and lead to certain types of lymphoma.
Certain infections, such as:
- Epstein–Barr virus (EBV), the virus that causes glandular fever, which is linked to some types of lymphoma
- Helicobacter pylori, bacteria that cause inflammation and ulcers in the stomach, which can cause gastric MALT lymphoma.
Having a relative with lymphoma
For close relatives (brother, sister, parent or child), the risk of developing lymphoma is slightly higher. Lymphomas are not common though, so the overall chances are still low. Unlike some cancers, there are no specific faulty genes for lymphoma that are inherited (passed from parent to child).
Many lymphomas, like other cancers, are more common in older people. This is because as time goes on more changes happen in the genes and the body is less able to repair these.
The multi-hit theory and lymphoma
All these risk factors account for only a few of the lymphomas that develop in people in the UK. Most people with one, or even more, of these risk factors do not develop lymphoma.
Doctors believe this is because more than one change happens in the genes before a lymphoma develops. It is likely that lots of things have happened, each of which has affected the genes in a small way, before a lymphoma develops. This is known as the ‘multi-hit theory’.
– See more at: http://www.lymphomas.org.uk/about-lymphoma/what-lymphoma/overview-causes-lymphoma#sthash.yjILGylB.dpuf