Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Risk Factors

A risk factor affects your chance of getting a disease such as cancer. Generally, different cancers have different risk factors. So, you can change some cancer risk factors, like smoking or being overweight. Others, like a person’s age or family history, can’t be changed.

A few risk factors make a person more likely to develop Hodgkin’s lymphoma (HL), but it’s not always clear why these factors increase risk. Here is some of the Hodgkin’s lymphoma risk factors:


Age is the most important factor when overall survival is analyzed and remains an independent factor also for progression-free survival. It impacts on prognosis in at least two ways. On one hand, it is intrinsically associated with HL biology, and, on the other hand, older age often is associated with co-morbidity and reduced tolerability of chemotherapeutic regimens used in younger patients​1​.


Males with HL have a poorer outcome than females. Generally, a preponderance of male gender is observed in elderly patients, and as a consequence male have more often unfavorable disease characteristics​1​

Viral Infection

Epstein-Barr Virus

Because viral infection can damage DNA and alter cell composition in healthy cells, investigators have examined the relationships between viral infection, T-cell function, and the development of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma​2​.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus

Another form of virus-related HL is human immunodeficiency virus- (HIV-) positive HL. Characteristically, HIV-HL patients present at a more advanced stage with associated extra nodal involvement and B-symptoms. The majority of HIV-HL cases are of the MC HL subtype, whereas NS HL is most common for HIV-negative patients​3​. According to a study people with HIV/AIDS were also more likely than the general population to be diagnosed with HL​4​.

Family History

Family history of lymphoid neoplasm (LN) is a strong and consistently observed Hodgkin lymphoma risk factor, although it has been only marginally examined in pediatric/adolescent patients​5​. According to reports the lifetime risk of HL in patients was slightly higher when a first-degree relative was diagnosed with early-onset (before age 30 years) HL. The risk in siblings was significantly higher than in parents and/or children​6​.

Weakened Immune System

As a result, having a weakened immune system is a common complication of Hodgkin lymphoma and it can become more severe if not treated. Therefore, if you have a weak immune system, you’re more vulnerable to infections and there’s an increased risk of developing serious complications from infections​7​.


  1. 1.
    Shanbhag S, Ambinder R. Hodgkin lymphoma: A review and update on recent progress. CA Cancer J Clin. 2018;68(2):116-132. doi:10.3322/caac.21438
  2. 2.
    Ambinder R. Epstein-barr virus and hodgkin lymphoma. Hematology Am Soc Hematol Educ Program. Published online January 1, 2007:204-209. doi:10.1182/asheducation-2007.1.204
  3. 3.
    Glaser S, Clarke C, Gulley M, et al. Population-based patterns of human immunodeficiency virus-related Hodgkin lymphoma in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area, 1988-1998. Cancer. 2003;98(2):300-309. doi:10.1002/cncr.11459
  4. 4.
    Biggar R, Jaffe E, Goedert J, Chaturvedi A, Pfeiffer R, Engels E. Hodgkin lymphoma and immunodeficiency in persons with HIV/AIDS. Blood. 2006;108(12):3786-3791. doi:10.1182/blood-2006-05-024109
  5. 5.
    Linabery A, Erhardt E, Richardson M, et al. Family history of cancer and risk of pediatric and adolescent Hodgkin lymphoma: A Children’s Oncology Group study. Int J Cancer. 2015;137(9):2163-2174. doi:10.1002/ijc.29589
  6. 6.
    Kharazmi E, Fallah M, Pukkala E, et al. Risk of familial classical Hodgkin lymphoma by relationship, histology, age, and sex: a joint study from five Nordic countries. Blood. 2015;126(17):1990-1995. doi:10.1182/blood-2015-04-639781
  7. 7.
    Complications -Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. NHS. Published 2018. Accessed March 2022. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/non-hodgkin-lymphoma/complications/