Causes and Diagnoses

Causes and Diagnoses of Lymphoma

The exact cause of lymphoma is unknown, but certain factors can increase your risk of developing lymphoma, including:

Hodgkin lymphoma risk factors

  • Gender: Men are more likely to be diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma than women.
  • Age: Hodgkin lymphoma occurs most often in young adulthood as well as after age 55.
  • Family history: A sibling with lymphoma may increase your risk.
  • Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection: EBV is the virus that causes mononucleosis ("mono"). Having had this virus may slightly increase your risk of lymphoma.
  • HIV infection: HIV can weaken the immune system, which may increase the risk of certain cancers, like lymphoma.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma risk factors

  • Gender: Men are more likely to be diagnosed.
  • Older age
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Immune system deficiencies
  • HIV infection
  • Hepatitis C infection
  • Human T-cell leukemia/lymphoma virus infection
  • Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection, the virus that causes mononucleosis
  • Radiation exposure
  • Chemical exposure to herbicides and benzene
  • Organ transplantation
  • H. pylori stomach infection


Diagnostic tests vary depending on the type of blood and lymph cancer your physician is trying to rule out. Diagnostic tests may include:

  • Blood tests
  • Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy
  • Lumbar puncture to collect spinal fluid
  • Lymph node biopsy
  • Lymph node removal

A diagnosis of lymphoma can only be verified by viewing cancer cells under a microscope. Once the diagnosis is made, your physician may need to assess the stage of the cancer using additional diagnostic testing, including: