Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma: Facts & Figures

Incidence in Minnesota:

NHL is the 5th most common cancer in MN

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL) in Minnesota has followed national trends, increasing steadily by about 1% per year among each sex since 1988 until 2011 with a drop in rates. Some part of this increase may be due to better detection of NHL and is especially pronounced in the very elderly. Despite the increase in incidence, new treatments for NHL have reduced the mortality rate in Minnesota by about 30% since 1996, with similar reductions nationwide. Incidence for this cancer is over 50% higher among males than females in Minnesota, as well as nationwide. It is the 5th most common cancer diagnosed among males and females in Minnesota.

There is a 15% difference when comparing the highest and lowest incidence rates by region in Minnesota. The most recent incidence rates in Minnesota are about 10% higher than the national rate both among males and among females. From 2011 to 2013, an average of 730 cases of NHL in males and 584 in females were diagnosed in Minnesota residents each year.


Non-Hodgkin lymphoma cases in Minnesota

Age-adjusted rate of new NHL cases.
Age-adjusted rate of new NHL cases.

Most recently, the age-adjusted incidence rate of NHL was 25.4 new cases per 100,000 males and 17.8 new cases per 100,000 females.


Non-Hodgkin lymphoma cases in Minnesota, by age

Rate of new NHL cases, aggregated from 2004 to 2013.
Rate of new NHL cases, aggregated from 2004 to 2013.

The rate of NHL increases with age, and is highest among males aged 80 and older.

What is non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL)?

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) is cancer that starts in a type of white blood cells called lymphocytes, part of the body's immune system. Lymphocytes are in the lymph nodes and other lymphoid tissues. Cancer starting in the cells of this system is a lymphoma. It causes the body to produce too many lymphocytes, crowding out other types of cells. Cancer starting in another body site such as breast, lung or colon will often spread via the lymph system but this is not a lymphoma. There are many different types of NHL, and some types are much easier to treat than others. Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphomas differ in the type of lymphocyte that develops cancer.

What are the risk factors for NHL?

  • Weakened immune system: People with organ transplants who are on immunosuppressant drugs, people with diseases that attack the immune system (such as those with human immunodeficiency virus or HIV), and people with autoimmune diseases (such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and many others) are at increased risk. Certain infections may cause NHL but account for relatively few of the cancers in the United States. Treatment with certain chemotherapy drugs for previous cancers increases the risk for NHL, as does radiation exposure.
  • Specific occupations: Individuals working in farming, forestry, paper and pulp production, hair styling, and chemistry have an increased risk, but the reason is unclear.
  • Other risk factors are unknown: Numerous industrial chemicals, farm and garden chemicals as well as chemicals found widespread in the environment (e.g., PCBs, dioxins, and DDT) have been studied, but conclusions about chemical risk factors are still unclear. 

How can NHL be prevented?

The causes of most types of NHL are unknown, so no proven strategies exist to prevent most forms of NHL. Avoiding factors that weaken the immune system (e.g., infection or HIV) and reducing exposure to chemicals and pesticides that are associated with NHL may help reduce risk.