Lymphomas in Adolescents and Young Adults

According to the World Cancer Research Fund International, non-Hodgkin lymphomas (NHL) ranked 10th in the top cancer occurrences in the world. Meanwhile, Hodgkin lymphoma took the 25th rank. This is for the year 2012, accounting to 14.1 million cancer incidences in the world.

NHLs is “one of the most common cancers in the United States.

In line with these figures, the American Cancer Society (ACS) says that NHLs is “one of the most common cancers in the United States.” It accounts for 4% of all cancer cases in the country, with about 72,240 Americans diagnosed with it in 2017. On the other hand, the ACS says that Hodgkin lymphomas, while rare, account for 8,260 new cases within the year. Surprisingly, 10-15% of this rare cancer is diagnosed in children and teenagers, says the same source.

The ACS is not alone in pointing out this staggering statistic. In a study published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health, it says that “lymphomas are one of the commonest malignancies in adolescents and young adults (AYA) accounting respectively for 22% of all cancers in patients aged 15-24 years (16% for Hodgkin lymphoma and 6% for NHL.”

More studies of Age-related differences in Tumor Biology needed

The study calls for more studies of age-related differences in tumor biology, particularly since AYA don’t necessarily fall into common cancer spectrums. For instance, a patient can either be treated by a pediatric oncologist or a medical oncologist. Their treatments would vary greatly despite having the same diagnosis. However, it is worth pointing out that AYA cancer patients are also significantly different from both spectrums – that is, children and adults.

How so? AYA cancer patients have different physiologies than children and adults. They can be high school students who suddenly found themselves with cancer or a young professional who was just beginning his career. The treatment and approach for them should be different than those that are implemented for children or adults. There are unique medical challenges, access issues, and psychosocial needs that are unique to their age group. For example, think of a young professional who just found out he has cancer. Does he tell his colleagues, or keep it a secret? Is there a stigma for this? They also have to contend with having a future despite their cancer, such as having a successful career of their own and daring to dream of having a family one day. These things may already be set for adults, while children are oftentimes too young to concern themselves with these thoughts.

Lymphoma, the most common type of blood cancer, accounts for nearly 1-in-5 cancer diagnosis among young people.

That being said, more and more groups are focusing their attention to AYA lymphoma patients. As the Lymphoma Research Foundation (LRF) points out, “Each year, nearly 70,000 AYA are diagnosed with cancer; and lymphoma, the most common type of blood cancer, accounts for nearly 1-in-5 cancer diagnosis among young people. In fact, every seven minutes someone is diagnosed with lymphoma.”

With more and more groups focusing on further growing the knowledge bank for AYAs with lymphomas, there can be a standardized treatment for them in the future that would help them all get back to their feet and conquer the cancer. After all, the 5-year survival rate for Hodgkin’s lymphoma is about 90-95%, while NHL is about 75%. As these very resilient AYAs go about their daily lives, they have a very high chance of going into remission and beating the cancer for good.