Smoking and Its Effect on Hodgkin Lymphoma

Smoking may be one of the key factors contributing to an increased risk of Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of cancer that affects the lymphatic system—a part of the body's immune system.

A woman smoking a cigarette.
Sabina Dimitriu / Getty Images

Increased Hodgkin Lymphoma Risk Among Smokers

A study, published in a leading journal in January 2007, demonstrated that smoking may be one of the factors that lead to the development of Hodgkin lymphoma or at least increase its risk. In a study carried out among Hodgkin lymphoma sufferers and healthy individuals, the incidence of smoking and alcohol intake were measured. The results turned out to be quite interesting:

  • Overall, smokers tend to have a 40% higher risk of developing Hodgkin lymphoma.
  • The risk was higher among current smokers (those who have been smoking within the last two years) than among those who have quit smoking. The risk reduces to the same level as non-smokers about 10 years after quitting. That's good news for quitters and a reason to consider doing so if you are a current smoker.
  • Those with Hodgkin lymphoma who have Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) infection seemed to have a much stronger link with smoking than those in whom the lymphoma is EBV negative. This suggests that smoking and EBV may interact to increase the chance of developing Hodgkin lymphoma. We don’t know how this interaction might take place. But a smoker who knows they are EBV positive has even more incentive to quit smoking.
  • There seems to be no link between alcohol intake and Hodgkin lymphoma risk. That's good news for those who enjoy rare or moderate drinking.

Reviews of Studies and Increased Risk

Reviews of studies since the 2007 study continued to find an increased risk among smokers for Hodgkin lymphoma. Cancer Research UK says it amounts to 10-15% higher risk for people who ever smoked compared with people who have never smoked. But as with the 2007 study, the risk is mostly associated with people who are currently smoking. It is also dose-dependent—if you smoke more, your risk also goes up, and if you smoke less, it isn't as elevated. The effect is seen to a greater degree by men, so gender seems to play a role. It is also more pronounced the older you get, which may relate to the number of years someone has been smoking.

The good news is that childhood Hodgkin lymphoma doesn't have an increased risk if the mother smoked during pregnancy. While there are many reasons why a pregnant woman shouldn't smoke, raising the risk of Hodgkin lymphoma doesn't seem to be one.

These results add another cancer to the list of smoking-related cancers. If you’re smoking, here’s another reason to stop. It probably isn't at the top of the list of reasons, but if you have a parent, friend or relative with Hodgkin it may be the reason you need to take the step to become a quitter.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Kamper-Jørgensen M, Rostgaard K, Glaser SL. Cigarette smoking and risk of Hodgkin lymphoma and its subtypes: a pooled analysis from the International Lymphoma Epidemiology Consortium (InterLymph)Ann Oncol. 2013;24(9):2245–2255. doi:10.1093/annonc/mdt218

  2. Willett EV, O???connor S, Smith AG, Roman E. Does Smoking or Alcohol Modify the Risk of Epstein-Barr Virus-Positive or -Negative Hodgkin Lymphoma? Epidemiology. 2007;18(1):130-136. doi:10.1097/01.ede.0000248899.47399.78

  3. Sergentanis TN, Kanavidis P, Michelakos T, Petridou ET. Cigarette smoking and risk of lymphoma in adultsEuropean Journal of Cancer Prevention. 2013;22(2):131-150. doi:10.1097/cej.0b013e328355ed08

  4. Sergentanis TN, Thomopoulos TP, Gialamas SP. Risk for childhood leukemia associated with maternal and paternal ageEuropean Journal of Epidemiology. 2015;30(12):1229-1261. doi:10.1007/s10654-015-0089-3

Additional Reading
  • Castillo JJ, Dalia S, Shum H. Meta-analysis of the association between cigarette smoking and incidence of Hodgkin's Lymphoma (link is external). J Clin Oncol. 2011;29(29):3900-6.

By Indranil Mallick, MD
 Indranil Mallick, MD, DNB, is a radiation oncologist with a special interest in lymphoma.