A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.

It is possible to develop Hodgkin lymphoma with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing Hodgkin lymphoma. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.

Hodgkin lymphoma is slightly more common in males. It tends to occur most often in people between the ages of 15-40 years old and again in those over 55 years old. People of European descent also have a higher risk for Hodgkin lymphoma than other ethnic groups.

Other factors that may increase your chance of Hodgkin lymphoma include:

  • Previous mononucleosis (mono) infection —Mono is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) which remains in the body even after symptoms have passed. People who have EBV have a higher risk for lymphoma than those who do not have EBV. However, many people have EBV and very few develop lymphoma. Additionally, not all people with lymphoma have EBV.
  • Family history —The risk is greatest if you have a same-gender sibling with Hodgkin lymphoma. This risk can be up to 10 times higher than in the average person.
  • Medical conditions —Diseases or conditions that weaken the immune system, like HIV infection or autoimmune diseases, increase the risk of Hodgkin lymphoma.
  • Smoking —Smoke and carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) enter the bloodstream after being inhaled. These agents affect every cell in the body, including the tissues and organs of the lymphatic system, which may increase the chance of cancer cells development. Smoke also weakens the immune system, making it difficult to manage abnormal cell growth.
  • Exposure —Pesticides or formaldehyde may cause your cells or immune system to act in a way that may increase the risk of Hodgkin lymphoma.

Adult Hodgkin lymphoma treatment (PDQ)—patient version. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/lymphoma/patient/adult-hodgkin-treatment-pdq. Accessed January 28, 2021.

Hodgkin lymphoma. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society website. Available at: http://www.lls.org/lymphoma/hodgkin-lymphoma?src1=20045&src2=. Accessed January 28, 2021.

Hodgkin lymphoma (HL). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114957/Hodgkin-lymphoma-HL. Accessed January 28, 2021.

Hodgkin lymphoma risk factors. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/hodgkin-lymphoma/causes-risks-prevention/risk-factors.html. Accessed January 28, 2021.

Last reviewed December 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP  Last Updated: 1/28/2021