Childhood Hodgkin Lymphoma Disease: A brief introduction
Childhood Hodgkin lymphoma, similarly to adult Hodgkin lymphoma, is a type of malignant cancer of the lymph system, which forms a critical part of the immune system our bodies use to fight disease. Specifically, Hodgkin lymphoma usually begins in lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell responsible for fighting bacteria, viruses, and other foreign invaders. Hodgkin lymphoma makes up about 6% of all childhood cancers. Today, the prognosis for children with Hodgkin lymphoma is significantly higher than even a decade ago, with the five-year survival rate between 90-95%.
Risk Factors for Childhood Hodgkin Lymphoma
A “risk factor” is anything that increases the odds of developing a disease such as cancer. For example, smoking is defined as a risk factors for lung cancer. Unlike many adult cancers, childhood cancers are rarely, if ever, linked to specific risk factors, especially lifestyle choices. Childhood Hodgkin lymphoma does have several identified risk factors. It is important to note, however, that not all children with these specific risk factors develop Hodgkin lymphoma, nor can most cases of Hodgkin lymphoma be traced to these risk factors. As with all childhood cancers, the cause of Hodgkin lymphoma is unknown.
Generally speaking, infection with one of two viruses known to cause immunodeficiency—Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS, and the Epstein-Barr virus—are considered to be risk factors for childhood Hodgkin lymphoma. Scientists and researchers are unclear as to why there appears to be a link between Epstein-Barr and Hodgkin lymphoma.
Other risk factors for childhood Hodgkin lymphoma include:
- Age: Hodgkin lymphoma is more common in teens and young adults than in younger children
- Gender: more girls than boys develop Hodgkin lymphoma during adolescence, but in young children, boys are significantly more likely to develop this form of cancer than girls
- Family history: siblings, especially identical twins, have a slighter higher risk for Hodgkin lymphoma, although most children with Hodgkin lymphoma do not have a family history
- Socioeconomic status: children from a higher socioeconomic background have a slighter higher risk of developing Hodgkin lymphoma, although the link is unknown. Some research speculate that children from more affluent families are more likely to contract Epstein-Barr.
Can Childhood Hodgkin Lymphoma Be Prevented?
Because the development of childhood Hodgkin Lymphoma is not linked to lifestyle factors that can cause some adult cancers, there is no known way to prevent childhood Hodgkin lymphoma. The one exception relates to the potential development of Hodgkin lymphoma as a secondary cancer stemming from treatment of a different form of childhood cancer with radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy. However, for children battling cancer, each child’s oncology team must weigh the need for intensive treatment to fight the primary cancer with the risk of causing secondary cancers and/or other long-term health problems. As with all childhood cancers, this exception highlights the critical need to develop new, more effective, and less toxic treatment options designed specifically for kids with cancer.
About American Childhood Cancer Organization
American Childhood Cancer Organization (ACCO) is a non-profit charity dedicated to helping kids with cancer and their families navigate the difficult journey from cancer diagnosis through survivorship. Internationally, ACCO is the sole U.S. member of Childhood Cancer International (CCI), the largest patient-support organization for childhood cancer in the world. Here in the United States, ACCO promotes the critical importance of ensuring continued funding into new and better treatment protocols for childhood cancer. And most importantly, ACCO is focused on the children: developing and providing educational tools for children fighting cancer and their families, empowering them in their understanding of childhood cancer and the medical decisions they must make during this difficult journey. All of ACCO’s resources are available free of charge for families coping with childhood cancer.