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Childhood Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - General Information


Childhood Hodgkin lymphoma is one of the few pediatric malignancies that shares aspects of its biology and natural history with an adult cancer. When treatment approaches for children were modeled after those used for adults, substantial morbidities (primarily musculoskeletal growth inhibition) resulted from the unacceptably high radiation doses. Thus, new strategies utilizing chemotherapy and lower-dose radiation were developed. Approximately 90% to 95% of children with Hodgkin lymphoma can be cured, prompting increased attention to devising therapy that produces less long-term morbidity for these patients. Contemporary treatment programs use a risk-adapted approach in which patients receive multiagent chemotherapy with or without low-dose involved-field radiation therapy. Prognostic factors used in determining chemotherapy intensity include stage, presence or absence of B symptoms (fever, weight loss, and night sweats), and/or bulky disease.


Hodgkin lymphoma comprises 6% of childhood cancers. In the United States, the incidence of Hodgkin lymphoma is age-related and is highest among adolescents aged 15 to 19 years (29 cases per million per year), with children ages 10 to 14 years, 5 to 9 years, and 0 to 4 years having approximately threefold, eightfold, and 30-fold lower rates, respectively.[3] In non-European Union countries, there is a similar rate in young adults but a much higher incidence in childhood.[4]

Hodgkin lymphoma has the following unique epidemiological features:

  • Hodgkin lymphoma has a bimodal age distribution that differs geographically and ethnically in industrialized countries; the early peak occurs in the middle to late 20s and the second peak after age 50 years. In developing countries, the early peak occurs before adolescence.[5]
  • The male-to-female ratio varies markedly by age. Children younger than 5 years show a strong male predominance (M:F = 5.3) and children aged 15 to 19 years show a slight female predominance (M:F = 0.8).[6,7]
  • There are three distinct forms of Hodgkin lymphoma:
    • Childhood form -occurs in individuals aged 14 years and younger. The childhood form of Hodgkin lymphoma increases in prevalence in association with larger family size and lower socioeconomic status.[5] Early exposure to common infections in early childhood appears to decrease the risk of Hodgkin lymphoma, most likely by maturation of cellular immunity.[8,9]
    • Young adult form -effects individuals aged 15 to 34 years. The young adult form is associated with a higher socioeconomic status in industrialized countries, increased sibship size, and earlier birth order.[10] The lower risk of Hodgkin lymphoma observed in young adults with multiple older, but not younger, siblings, is consistent with the hypothesis that early exposure to viral infection (which the siblings bring home from school, for example) may play a role in the pathogenesis of the disease.[8]
    • Older adult form -most commonly presents in individuals aged 55 to 74 years.
  • A family history of Hodgkin lymphoma in siblings or parents has been associated with an increased risk of this disease.[11]
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