Hodgkin's disease is the name for a group of cancers that start in the lymph nodes and then spread to surrounding areas of the body. Lymph nodes are small organs found at various sites in the body, such as under the armpits, in the groin, back of the abdomen, and in the neck.
These nodes help fight infection by filtering out bacteria and other harmful substances. Many people notice slightly swollen nodes in the neck when they have a cold or the flu; however, these swellings are usually temporary and disappear within a week or two.
Hodgkin's disease is a type of lymphoma, a form of cancer that affects the lymphatic system. Lymphomas are the third most common type of cancer in children. Hodgkin's disease usually occurs in two age groups: 1) people between the ages of 15 and 40; and 2) people over the age of 55.
The exact cause of Hodgkin's disease is unknown, as is true for most types of cancer. Studies have found an increased risk of Hodgkin's disease in people who have had the Epstein-Barr virus. This has led researchers to think that viral factors may play a role in causing this type of cancer. However, this is still not proven.
Other risk factors may include an HIV infection, a family history of Hodgkin's lymphoma, and previous chemotherapy or radiation exposure. People who have suppressed immune systems due to certain medications or medical conditions may also be at risk.