Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Sufferers Are Living Longer

Those diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma are living much longer now than they did ten years according to a recent study published in the March 10 issue of the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

German researchers examined data from the 5 and 10 year survival rates of patients aged 15 or older diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The researchers found both 5-year and 1-year survival rates for those living with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma have improved significantly from 1990-1992 to 2002-2004.

Five-year survival rates increased from 50.4 to 66.8 percent while ten year survival rates increased from 39.4 to 56.3 percent. Improvements were seen across all ages, both sexes, and regardless of the stage of the disease, however improvements in survival rates were less in black patients, particularly young black patients.

Those aged under 45 years had the biggest improvements in survival rates with an increase of 26.8 percent in 5-year survival rates and an increase of 27.1 percent in 10-year survival rates.

The improvements in life expectancy for Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma sufferers are thought to have came about through two medical advances. The first being the introduction of antibody therapy as a viable treatment for the disease. The drug rituximab, which is an antibody therapy is now a key weapon in the fight against Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The combination of chemotherapy and antibody therapy is an effective combination and in many cases allows Non-Hodgkin sufferers to recover completely from the disease.

The second improvement in life expectancy has came about through improved HIV treatments. HIV sufferers are at increased risk of developing Non-Hodgkin lymphoma because the virus weakens the immune system, leaving the body susceptible to certain forms of cancer. Those with HIV/AIDS have tended to have a poor NHL prognosis in the past because they were often already quite sick and unable to tolerate intensive treatments.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is the collective name for a group of cancers that affect the lymphatic system, the disease has gone from being a relatively rare form of cancer a few decades ago to being one of the most common forms of cancer. It is currently the fifth most common form of cancer in the United States and an individual has about a 2% chance of developing Non-Hodgkin lymphoma at some point in their lifetime.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is slightly more common in whites than blacks and affects males more than females. The disease is also much more common amongst older individuals with those aged 75-79 years old being at about a ten times greater risk of developing the disease than 30-34 year olds. As the population ages, Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is expected to become increasingly common.

While the precise causes of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma are unknown, those with impaired immune systems, such as those taking immuno-suppressant drugs or suffering from HIV are at a greater risk of developing the disease. Studies have also shown that the risk of developing Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is lower among those who eat large amounts of vegetables, particularly cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, and kale.