Facts & Statistics About Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

By - March 31, 2019
Views: 2608

So far, two juries have determined that Roundup, the most popular weedkiller in the world, causes or significantly contributes to non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a serious, sometimes fatal form of cancer that’s diagnosed in about 74,000 Americans every year.

Accounting for 4 percent of all cancers, non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) is a cancer that starts in the body’s lymphocytes, or white blood cells. These crucial cells are part of the body’s immune system, which helps fight infections and push fluids throughout the body. Lymphoma can begin in any part of the body where lymph tissues are found, such as the lymph nodes, the bone marrow or the spleen.

Of the thousands of lawsuits pending against Roundup and its makers, Monsanto and Bayer AG, many of the plaintiffs have been diagnosed with NHL, including both of the men who were on the receiving end of recent jury verdicts in their favor, with awards topping $150 million in the two cases combined.

While NHL isn’t considered an especially rare form of cancer, it still isn’t as well-understood as some other types of cancer, such as breast or lung cancer. What causes it? Who gets it? Where in the U.S. is it most common? Find the answers to these and other questions below.

What Is Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma?

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma is an umbrella term for many types of blood cancers that share a few specific characteristics. NHL includes all lymphomas that aren’t Hodgkin lymphoma, often referred to as Hodgkin disease or Hodgkin’s disease. There are many types of NHL, and the World Health Organization’s grouping system is the global standard for diagnosing and classifying which type of NHL a patient has.

One of the main factors that guides an NHL diagnosis is which type of white blood cell is affected — B-cells or T-cells. Both types of white blood cells help our bodies fight germs, but B-cell lymphomas are the most common.

Like any cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma can cause a series of symptoms, or it may not be noticed by the patient until the cancer is very advanced. But common signals of NHL include:

  • Chills
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Swollen belly
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Frequent or severe infections
  • Extreme sweats

How Common Is Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma?

About 74,200 people will be newly diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma this year, and nearly 20,000 people will die from it. NHL accounts for about 4 percent of all new cancer cases in a typical year, but it has become much more common over the years.

Here’s a look at the combined incidence rates for men and women between 1975 and 2015, according to the American Cancer Society.

Average incidence rate per 100,000 population

1975 11.3
1980 12.9
1985 15.8
1990 18.9
1995 20.4
2000 20.2
2005 21.3
2010 22.1
2015 20.9

That’s an overall increase in the NHL rate of about 85 percent since the mid-1970s.

Men are more likely than women to be diagnosed, with males accounting for about 55 percent of all new cases of NHL and about 58 percent of deaths caused by the cancer. Men have a 1 in 42 chance of being diagnosed, while women have a 1 in 54 chance.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is more common in whites than any other ethnic group, though Hispanics are a close second.

Incidence rates per 100,000 (2011-15) by race or ethnicity

White 19.7
Hispanic 17
Alaska Native or Native American 15
Black 14.2
Asian/Pacific Islander 13

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma rates are highest in the eastern part of the United States. Of the states with the 10 highest incidence of NHL when factoring in population size, only two are outside either New England or the eastern time zone.

New NHL cases per 100,000 population by state

Maine 29.9
New Hampshire 27.6
Vermont 27.3
Pennsylvania 26.8
Connecticut 26.5
Iowa 26.4
West Virginia 25.9
New Jersey 25.9
Florida 25.8
Wisconsin 25.5
Rhode Island 25.5
Michigan 25.4
New York 25.3
Massachusetts 25.1
Delaware 24.9
Montana 24.8
Ohio 24.4
Minnesota 24.4
Oregon 24.4
Washington 24.3
South Dakota 24.1
Nebraska 24
North Dakota 23.8
Kentucky 23.6
Missouri 23.4
Indiana 23.2
Tennessee 23.1
Louisiana 22.6
Illinois 22.6
Wyoming 22.4
Kansas 22.3
Idaho 22.1
South Carolina 21.9
Oklahoma 21.6
North Carolina 21.6
Arkansas 21.3
Maryland 21.1
California 20.8
Virginia 20.8
Alabama 20.3
Arizona 20.2
Colorado 20.2
Nevada 20
Hawaii 19.6
Georgia 19.5
Texas 19.2
New Mexico 19.2
Mississippi 19.1
Utah 17.7
Alaska 17.6
District of Columbia 17.3

How Deadly Is Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma?

The five-year survival rate for newly diagnosed NHL cases is 71 percent. Newly diagnosed NHL patients have far less of a chance of surviving for five years after diagnosis than those who have Hodgkin lymphoma, as the combined five-year survival rate for that form of lymphoma is 86 percent, 15 percentage points better than the rate for NHL.

Of major cancer types, NHL’s five-year combined survival rate is near the middle of the pack.

Five-year survival rate by cancer type for all stages combined

Prostate 99%
Thyroid 98%
Melanoma of the skin 92%
Breast 90%
Hodgkin lymphoma 86%
Uterine corpus 81%
Urinary bladder 77%
Kidney and renal pelvis 74%
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma 71%
Cervix 67%
Colorectum 65%
Oral cavity and pharynx 65%
Larynx 61%
Myeloma 50%
Ovary 47%
Brain and other nervous system 34%
Stomach 31%
Esophagus 19%
Liver and intrahepatic bile duct 18%
Lung and bronchus 18%
Pancreas 8%

Stages of cancer can be measured by how much, if at all, the cancer has grown from where it originated. Distant cancers are the most aggressive, having spread to parts of the body that are far from where the cancer started. Regional cancers are ones that have spread to nearby areas of the body, and localized cancers haven’t grown beyond their starting points.

NHL five-year survival rate by stage

Localized 83%
Regional 75%
Distant 63%

What Causes Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma?

Evidence is mounting that one major factor in the development of non-Hodgkin lymphoma is the weedkiller Roundup and its active ingredient, glyphosate. Quite recently, in February 2019, a meta-analysis of available academic literature indicated that glyphosate exposure raises a person’s risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma by 41 percent.

While this is just one analysis that attempts to quantify the connection between Roundup and cancer, other similar chemicals have long been believed to be contributing factors. Other risk factors include:

  • Genetics: Having a parent, sibling or child with NHL increases your risk
  • Radiation: Patients treated with radiation therapy for other cancers have an elevated risk of developing NHL.
  • Immune system issues: HIV patients are at an increased risk, as are those who take immunosuppressants after organ transplant. Some autoimmune disorders, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, have been linked with increased NHL risk.
  • Infections: There are a handful of infections that can transform the DNA of white blood cells, turning them into cancer cells, including Epstein-Barr virus and herpes virus 8. Additionally, chronic conditions, such as hepatitis C, is a risk factor for some lymphomas.
  • Body weight and diet: Being overweight or obese has been detected as a risk factor as has a diet high in fat and meat.


While the U.S. Environmental Protection agency has classified glyphosate as not likely to be carcinogenic, there’s good reason to believe that’s a faulty classification. Nearly 12,000 lawsuits are pending against Monsanto, the company that invented Roundup, and Bayer AG, the German pharma giant that purchased Monsanto in 2018, and two jury verdicts already have tied Roundup use to non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

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