Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) is not hereditary. But a family history of NHL is a risk factor for this disease.

NHL is a cancer of the lymphatic system. Several genetic changes correlate with NHL. However, there are no reliable genetic tests for NHL.

This article discusses its genetic component. After examining whether NHL is hereditary, the article looks at genetic and non-genetic risk factors for this condition. It will also discuss the process and costs of genetic testing.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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Cancers occur when certain cells grow and divide abnormally. Certain genetic changes cause and sustain this process.

It is possible to inherit some cancer-causing genetic changes. It is also possible to acquire these genetic changes throughout a person’s life.

NHL is not considered to be hereditary. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), most gene changes connected to NHL are typically acquired during a person’s lifetime.

However, having a first-degree relative with NHL seems to increase the risk of developing the condition. For this reason, there may be some hereditary genetic mutations that predispose people to developing NHL.

Genes associated with NHL

Different NHL subtypes sometimes have an association with unique genetic changes. Some of the genetic changes associated with NHL include:

  • Burkitt lymphoma: This condition has an association with ID3 and TCF3 mutations.
  • Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma: This has an association with MYC, BCL6, and IRF4 rearrangements.
  • Follicular lymphoma: This has an association with TNFRSF14 mutations and IRF4 rearrangements.

It is important to note that associated genetic changes might not always cause NHL.

Risk factors for NHL include:

  • Demographic factors: Men are more at risk of NHL, as are people aged 60 years or older.
  • Infections of the lymphatic system: These include infections from the Epstein-Barr virus, the Human herpes virus 8 (HHV-8), and the human T-cell lymphotropic virus.
  • Immune system problems: These include having a compromised immune system, which may be the result of infection. They also include certain autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or celiac disease.
  • Receiving certain treatments: This includes medications such as tumor necrosis factor inhibitors and some chemotherapy drugs. It also includes radiation therapy.
  • Exposure to certain chemicals: These chemicals include benzene, some herbicides, and some insecticides.

These factors do not make it inevitable for NHL to develop. However, anybody who is concerned about NHL risk factors can always talk with a doctor.

As the ACS explains, genetic testing is when medical professionals use tests to look for certain genetic changes. Experts can use this information to assess the risk of developing certain cancers. Doctors and patients can then explore preventive steps, if appropriate.

Medical professionals sometimes recommend genetic testing to people with a family history of certain cancers. However, this is not the case with NHL. There are currently no reliable genetic tests for NHL.

For the moment, scientists do not have a firm-enough understanding of NHL’s genetic component.

Paying for genetic testing

ACS notes that genetic testing can be very expensive, reaching thousands of dollars in price.

Many insurance plans cover at least some of those costs. However, not everyone on these plans is entitled to financial help.

For instance, insurance plans might only cover genetic testing when an individual meets certain criteria, such as having a family history of cancer.

Since there are no genetic tests for NHL, insurance providers will not cover genetic testing for this particular condition.

NHL is when the cells of the lymphatic system develop in an abnormal way. This abnormal development derives from genetic changes.

Having a close relative with NHL is a risk factor for this condition. Some NHL-predisposing genetic changes might therefore pass from parent to child. However, NHL is not a hereditary condition. Parents do not pass NHL directly to their children.

Scientists have discovered genetic changes that correlate with NHL. These include changes to the ID3, TCF3, and IRF4 genes.

However, scientists do not understand the exact relationship between those changes and NHL. Indeed, scientific understanding of NHL’s genetic component remains limited. This prevents reliable genetic testing for NHL.