Lymphoma: An Overview of Hodgkin and Non-Hodgkin Lymphomas and Their Mechanisms

 | Post date: 2023/09/5 | 

Lymphoma is a heterogeneous group of cancers that originate in the lymphatic system, a vital component of the immune system. There are two main categories of lymphoma: Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). These two types of lymphomas differ in terms of their epidemiology, clinical characteristics, and underlying mechanisms. This essay aims to provide an overview of Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphomas while exploring the underlying mechanisms that drive their development.

Hodgkin Lymphoma (HL)

Hodgkin lymphoma, first described by Thomas Hodgkin in 1832, is a relatively rare but highly curable form of lymphoma. It is characterized by the presence of Reed-Sternberg cells, large, abnormal B cells, in the lymph nodes. HL typically originates in a single lymph node or a chain of lymph nodes, and it can spread to adjacent nodes if left untreated.


  • Hodgkin lymphoma accounts for approximately 10% of all lymphoma cases.
  • It has a bimodal age distribution, with peaks in young adulthood (ages 15-35) and after age 55.
  • It is more common in males than females.

Mechanism: The exact cause of Hodgkin lymphoma is not well understood, but it is thought to result from a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental factors. The characteristic Reed-Sternberg cells in HL are derived from germinal center B cells. The mechanism of HL can be summarized as follows:

  1. Genetic Alterations: Genetic mutations in B cells can disrupt normal apoptosis (cell death) mechanisms, allowing these abnormal cells to survive and accumulate.
  2. Immune Dysregulation: The Reed-Sternberg cells in HL evade the immune system's surveillance mechanisms, leading to an inflammatory environment.
  3. Cytokine Production: These abnormal cells produce cytokines that attract immune cells, causing further inflammation and tissue damage.
  4. Lymph Node Involvement: The accumulation of Reed-Sternberg cells in lymph nodes results in the characteristic enlargement seen in HL.

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL)

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a diverse group of lymphomas that do not exhibit the Reed-Sternberg cells characteristic of Hodgkin lymphoma. NHL can originate from B cells, T cells, or natural killer (NK) cells, and it is further subdivided into numerous subtypes based on histology, genetic markers, and clinical behavior.


  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is more common than Hodgkin lymphoma, representing approximately 90% of all lymphoma cases.
  • NHL can affect individuals of any age, with the risk increasing with age.

Mechanism: The mechanisms underlying non-Hodgkin lymphoma are complex and vary depending on the specific subtype. However, common features include:

  1. Genetic Mutations: NHL often arises from genetic mutations that disrupt the normal regulation of cell division and apoptosis.
  2. B and T Cell Dysregulation: Abnormal B or T cells can proliferate uncontrollably, leading to the development of lymphomas.
  3. Chromosomal Aberrations: Specific chromosomal translocations and rearrangements are associated with certain NHL subtypes, contributing to their development.
  4. Viral Infections: Some NHL cases are linked to viral infections, such as Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) or human T-lymphotropic virus (HTLV-1).

Treatment and Prognosis

Both Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphomas are treatable, with high survival rates for many subtypes. Treatment options include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, and stem cell transplantation, depending on the subtype and stage of the disease.

Lymphoma encompasses a diverse group of malignancies that arise from the lymphatic system. Understanding the differences between Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphomas, as well as their underlying mechanisms, is crucial for accurate diagnosis and effective treatment. Ongoing research continues to unravel the complexities of these lymphomas, leading to improved therapies and outcomes for patients affected by these diseases.



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