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Roundup® and non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), which is also called non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or just lymphoma, is a cancer that starts in white blood cells called lymphocytes. Exposure to Roundup®, Monsanto’s popular weed killer, has been linked to an increased risk of developing cancer, including non-Hodgkin lymphoma. As a result, there are a growing number of Roundup lawsuits in the U.S.

Diagram of the human lymphatic system.

What is non-Hodgkin Lymphoma?

NHL is not just one disease but is actually a group of blood cancers that all begin in the lymphocytes, which are white blood cells that are part of the body’s immune system. Your immune system helps your body fight infections and some diseases; it also helps fluids move through your body.

Lymphoma affects the body’s lymph, or lymphatic, system. It can start anywhere in the body where lymph nodes or lymph tissue are found and can also affect the skin. Lymph tissue can be found throughout the body, including in:

  • Lymph nodes, which are groups of lymphocytes and other immune system cells found throughout the body including the abdomen, chest, and pelvis. Lymph nodes are about the size of a bean.
  • The digestive tract (intestines, stomach, and other organs in the abdomen).
  • Your tonsils and adenoids.
  • Bone marrow, where new blood cells are made, including some lymphocytes.
  • The spleen—an organ that also makes lymphocytes and other immune system cells.
  • The thymus, which is an organ in front of the heart.
Microscopic image of a human lymphocyte.
Electron microscopic image of a single human lymphocyte.

How Does NHL Develop?

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma can develop in one of three major types of lymphocytes:

  • B lymphocytes (B cells)
  • T lymphocytes (T cells)
  • Natural killer cells (NK cells)

Most (85 to 90%) NHL cancers start in B cells.

The cancer occurs when one of these cells changes, or mutates, becoming abnormal, and grows out of control, producing more abnormal cells like it. These are called lymphomas.

The lymphomas then accumulate and form tumors. These lymphomas may then develop and spread to other parts of the body where lymph tissue is found, such as the bone marrow or spleen. When this spreading occurs, it is called primary extranodal lymphoma.

Types of non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

NHL may be classified by the kind of cell it originates in:

  • B-cell lymphoma
  • T-cell lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is further classified into more than 60 subtypes. And these subtypes are further categorized based on the speed at which the cancer is developing:

  • Aggressive (fast-growing) NHL. The most common type of aggressive lymphoma in the United States is diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL).
  • Indolent (slow-growing) NHL. The most common type of indolent lymphoma in the United States is follicular lymphoma.

But some kinds of lymphoma, such as mantle cell lymphoma, do not really fit into either of these categories.

With so many types of NHL, classifications can be made based on many factors. One system for classifying the many different kinds of lymphomas was developed by the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO classifies lymphomas based on:

  • The kind of lymphocyte the lymphoma started in.
  • How the lymphoma looks when examined under a microscope.
  • The chromosome features of the lymphomas.
  • If certain proteins are found on the surface of the cells.

Symptoms of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

The most common early sign of NHL is painless swelling in one or more of the body’s more than 600 lymph nodes. Most often, people with NHL have enlarged lymph nodes in their armpit, groin, or neck. Sometimes a swollen node is found near the ears or elbow or in the throat, near the tonsils.

NHL occasionally starts in sites other than the lymph nodes, such as in the lungs, or in a bone, the skin, or the intestinal tract.

Common symptoms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma include:

  • Painless swelling in one or more lymph node(s)
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Unexplained fever
  • Unexplained loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Drenching night sweats
  • Cough or chest pain
  • Stomach pain
  • Feeling bloated
  • Itchy skin
  • Enlarged spleen or liver
  • Rashes or skin lumps

Some people have no symptoms; their non-Hodgkin lymphoma is discovered when they are being examined by a medical professional for other reasons.

Some Specific Types of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

As noted above, non-Hodgkin lymphoma has many subtypes grouped under B lymphocytes (B cells) or T lymphocytes (T cells). Exposure to Roundup—as well as other glyphosate-based herbicides—may lead to health complications, including non-Hodgkin lymphoma, or one of its subtypes, including:

B-Cell Lymphomas

  • Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL). A common subtype of DLBCL is primary mediastinal B-cell lymphoma.
    • There are several other subtypes of DLBCL, but these are rare, including Follicular lymphoma.
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) /Small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL).
  • Mantle cell lymphoma (MCL).
  • Marginal zone lymphomas. There are 3 main types of marginal zone lymphomas: Extranodal marginal zone B-cell lymphoma, also known as mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) lymphoma. Nodal marginal zone B-cell lymphoma. Splenic marginal zone B-cell lymphoma.
  • Burkitt lymphoma.
  • Lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma (Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia).
  • Hairy cell leukemia (HCL).
  • Primary central nervous system (CNS) lymphoma.

T-Cell Lymphomas

  • Precursor T-lymphoblastic lymphoma/leukemia.
  • Peripheral T-cell lymphomas.
  • Cutaneous T-cell lymphomas (mycosis fungoides, Sezary syndrome, and others).
  • Adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma.
  • There are 4 subtypes: The smoldering subtype, the chronic subtype, and the acute subtype is the most common.
  • Angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma.
  • Extranodal natural killer/T-cell lymphoma, nasal type.
  • Enteropathy-associated intestinal T-cell lymphoma (EATL).
  • Anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL).
    • Primary cutaneous ALCL only affects the skin. Systemic ALCL can affect the lymph nodes and other organs. Breast implant-associated ALCL is a rare type of ALCL that can develop in the breasts of women who have had implants.
  • Peripheral T-cell lymphoma, not otherwise specified (PTCL, NOS): This name is given to T-cell lymphomas that don’t readily fit into any of the groups above.


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