Lymphatic cancer is one of the most common cancers worldwide. Hodgkin’s lymphoma is part of them and affects the lymphatic system, which is responsible for transporting fluids and immune system cells throughout the body and fighting infections and other diseases.
Although it’s unknown precisely what causes this disease, studies suggest that genetic inheritance may play an essential role in Hodgkin’s lymphoma. If you want to learn more about this disease, its symptoms, causes, how it is diagnosed, and the relationship of Hodgkin’s lymphoma to genetics, keep reading.
What is Hodgkin’s lymphoma?
Hodgkin’s disease, or Hodgkin’s lymphoma, is one of the many types of cancer that begin in the lymphatic system. It happens when lymphocytes, commonly known as white blood cells (although white blood cells encompass other cell types such as neutrophils and basophils), begin to grow uncontrollably, causing inflammation of the lymph nodes.
This disease affects people of any age, although it’s more frequent in two specific groups: those aged 20 to 39 years and those over 65 years . Hodgkin’s lymphoma is one of the most curable cancers there is, although the success of its treatment depends on different factors such as gender, type of lymphoma, stage and age at diagnosis .
The statistical data for this type of cancer are encouraging. The survival rate of Hodgkin’s lymphoma has been on the rise since 1975, mainly due to treatment improvements. Between 2010 and 2019, its mortality decreased by 4.5% per year .
What are the symptoms of Hodgkin’s lymphoma?
The most commonly referred symptoms in people with Hodgkin’s disease include the following:
- Painless swelling of lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, or groin.
- Persistent fatigue.
- Fever for no apparent reason.
- Excessive night sweats.
- Weight loss for no known reason.
- Intense itching of the skin, especially after showering or drinking alcohol.
- Pain in the lymph nodes after drinking alcohol.
Diagnosis of Hodgkin’s lymphoma
Several tests are usually performed to diagnose Hodgkin’s disease, some of them are as follows:
- Physical and medical history examination: intended to determine symptoms and identify swollen nodes.
- Biopsy: a lymph node or part of it is removed and analyzed in the laboratory to confirm if cancer is present and what type it is.
- Laboratory tests, including a complete blood count.
- Imaging studies: the inside of the body is viewed using x-rays, sound waves, magnetic fields, or radioactive particles.
Causes of Hodgkin’s lymphoma
There are some known risk factors for developing Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but this does not imply that people who have them will grow the disease, nor that those who lack them may not develop it at some point.
Among the known causes of Hodgkin’s disease are:
- Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection causes infectious mononucleosis and has been contracted by most of the population at some point in their childhood or adolescence. The associated risk is minimal (1 in 1000) .
- Age: more common in young adults (20-39 years) and persons older than 65.
- Sex: the risk is slightly higher in men than in women.
- Weakened immune system: people with HIV, autoimmune diseases, or who take immune-suppressing drugs after organ transplantation are likelier to develop the disease.
- Family history: Siblings of young people diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma are at increased risk for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and the risk is even significantly increased in identical twins.
How does Hodgkin’s lymphoma relate to genetics?
A study conducted by researchers at St. Jude Hospital in the United States, and published in the journal Blood, yields results that highlight the critical role of genetic predisposition in understanding Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The authors concluded that inherited genetic variants predispose people to develop this hematological malignancy in most families with diagnosed cases .
If you want to know your genetic predisposition to Hodgkin’s lymphoma, you can do so by taking a genetic health test. At 24Genetics, we generate a detailed report on your probability of suffering from this and other types of cancer.
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