e and sex four healthy veterans for each person infected with hepatitis C. Nearly all of the veterans included in the study were male, and the average age was 52.
The researchers found that just fewer than 1,400 people included in the study developed non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and 165 developed Waldenstrom's lymphoma.
The risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma was 28 percent higher for those with hepatitis C, and the risk of Waldenstrom's was 276 percent higher.
While women only comprised 3 percent of the study population, Giordano believes the results would probably apply to women as well.
According to Marshall Lichtman, executive vice president for research and medical progress for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the study could help scientists better understand the connection between infection and cancer. Several infectious agents the Epstein-Barr virus, HIV and bacteria called Helicobacter pylori are all associated with lymphoma.
Experts say that these organisms could cause cancer this way: Immune cells flock to the infection site, then make lots of copies of themselves to outnumber the viruses or bacteria that they want to kill. Most of the copies are normal, but a few have genetic mistakes, or mutations, that lead to cancer.
Worldwide, about one in five cancers are caused by infection. Doctors can prevent some of these cancers with vaccines, such as the hepatitis B vaccine, which can reduce the risk of liver cancer, or the new vaccine against human papillomavirus, which protects against most cervical cancers.
Giordano says that as there's no standard screening tool for lymphoma, there aren't any immediate practical implications from the findings. He said the findings may help researchers, and they may alert physicians to think of the possibility of lymphoma in their hepatitis C patients.
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