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

It is possible to develop Hodgkin’s disease with or without the risk factors listed below. Most people with these risk factors never develop Hodgkin’s lymphoma. However, in general, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing a disease. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your health care provider what you can do to reduce your risk.

There are no major risk factors associated with causing Hodgkin's disease. The following factors, though, may increase risk:


Immunodeficiency, which is some sort of defect or deficiency of the immune system, increases your risk of Hodgkin’s disease. The following may cause decreased immunity:

  • Infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • Taking medications after an organ transplant that are meant to suppress the immune system
  • Certain conditions people are born with that decrease their immune function, such as ataxia-telangiectasia

It is not known exactly why immunodeficiency increases risk of Hodgkin's disease.


Hodgkin’s disease seems to occur more often in people who have been infected with the Epstein-Barr virus (the virus that causes infectious mononucleosis) or the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Doctors do not think HIV causes Hodgkin’s lymphoma. But Hodgkin’s patients with HIV usually do not fair as well as other Hodgkin’s patients.

Infection with the Epstein-Barr virus may contribute to Hodgkin’s disease. Or it may be a symptom of a problem with the immune system that ultimately leads to Hodgkin’s lymphoma.


Hodgkin’s disease seems to occur more often in people between the ages of 15 and 34, and over age 55, than in other age groups. The number of older adults developing Hodgkin’s disease is decreasing. Why the disease occurs in these age groups is not known.


Slightly more males than females are diagnosed each year. About 3,700 new cases are diagnosed in American males each year compared to 3,300 in American females. Why slightly more men develop Hodgkin’s disease is not known.

Genetic Factors

Having a close relative with Hodgkin’s lymphoma may increase your chance of developing the disease. But Hodgkin’s disease does not seem to result from a genetic problem.

Ethnic Background

People of European descent are more likely to develop Hodgkin’s disease than people of other ethnic groups. The reason for this is unknown.