Non-Hodgkin lymphoma

This page was reviewed under our medical and editorial policy by Maurie Markman, MD, President, Medicine & Science

This page was updated on July 20, 2022.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is the most common type of blood cancer, with more than 80,620 newly diagnosed cases expected in the United States in 2024, according to the American Cancer Society. The disease is sometimes called non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, NHL or just “lymphoma.” It develops in white blood cells, called lymphocytes, which are part of the body’s immune system.

No non-Hodgkin lymphoma patient is the same. Get personalized treatment.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is complex. That’s why it’s important to consult with an experienced team of cancer doctors and clinicians trained to identify each patient’s specific cancer type and develop a treatment plan tailored to his or her individual needs. At City of Hope, our medical oncologists, hematologist-oncologists and other experts have years of experience delivering standard-of-care and precision cancer treatments available to treat non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

This overview will cover the basic facts about non-Hodgkin lymphoma, including:

If you believe you may be experiencing symptoms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and want to schedule an appointment for diagnostic testing, or if you’re interested in a second opinion for your non-Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosis and treatment plan, call us or chat online with a member of our team.

What is non-Hodgkin lymphoma?

What causes non-Hodgkin lymphoma?

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is caused by changes in cell DNA. Some of these changes may be genetic, some may develop during a person’s lifetime due to an external influence, and still others may occur for no known reason. Gene changes that lead to non-Hodgkin lymphoma are usually acquired during a person’s lifetime, commonly as a result of exposure to:

  • Radiation
  • Carcinogenic chemicals
  • Infections

Age is also a major risk factor for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Researchers believe this is because gene mutations occur more often as we get older. Other risk factors for non-Hodgkin lymphoma include a family history of lymphoma and changes in the immune system due to:

  • An immune deficiency or inherited immune disorder
  • An autoimmune disease, such as lupus
  • A chronic infection like HIV/AIDS
  • Treatment with certain drugs, such as methotrexate for rheumatoid arthritis
  • Treatment with immunosuppressant drugs to treat patients who have had an organ transplant

Learn more about risk factors for non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Who gets non-Hodgkin lymphoma?

People with weakened immune systems are at greater risk of getting the disease. It’s more typical in men than women and more common in whites than African Americans. More than three-quarters of new cases are diagnosed in individuals over the age of 55, although it may also affect people in their 20s or 30s.

Robbie Robinson

Robbie R.

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

"I called City of Hope right away and made an appointment. Within the next week, I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, staged, given my treatment options and assured that I was not alone in my fight. I was on a team now—which I was to be a big part of—and we were going to do everything possible to beat this disease."


More About ROBBIE

Types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Symptoms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Symptoms for non-Hodgkin lymphoma may include:

Learn more about the symptoms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Diagnosing non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Treating non-Hodgkin lymphoma

City of Hope approach to helping you maintain your quality of life