What is lymphoma?
Lymphoma is cancer of the lymphocytes (the white blood cells that help to fight infection). Lymphocytes are found in a liquid called lymph which travels throughout our body in the lymphatic system (a series of tubes, nodes and organs such as the spleen and thymus that are part of our immune system). Lymphocytes often gather in the lymph nodes (most commonly in the armpit, neck or groin) to fight infection, but can also found in almost any part of the body. Lymphoma occurs when abnormal lymphocytes grow out of control and collect in the lymph nodes or other parts of the body.
There are over 80 different forms of lymphoma, known as subtypes. The symptoms, diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of lymphoma vary according to the subtype that is diagnosed.
Lymphomas are either:
- Low grade (also referred to as indolent or chronic), because the abnormal cells are slow-growing; or
- High grade (also known as aggressive or acute).
Lymphomas have been generally categorised either into Hodgkin lymphoma or non-Hodgkin lymphoma. This categorisation is based upon the name of the doctor, Dr Thomas Hodgkin, who first described what was then labelled Hodgkin’s Disease in the early nineteenth century.
Lymphoma Coalition discourages the use of the term ‘non-Hodgkin lymphoma’ as the category does not give the patient any important information about their cancer. Given the variety and complexity of the different subtypes, it is important for people diagnosed with lymphoma to know and understand their specific subtype, including whether it is low grade or high grade. Knowing the specific subtype helps people better understand their disease (including its diagnosis, prognosis and treatment plan), and access tailored information and support.
Lymphomas, chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) and blood cancers
As a cancer of the white blood cells, lymphoma is often grouped with other blood cancers (or haematological malignancies) such as myeloma and leukaemia. In terms of the number of new cases each year, lymphoma is the most common blood cancer in Europe, as well as being the fifth most common cancer overall (after breast, lung, bowel and prostate cancers).
Despite its name, chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) is clinically a lymphoma and so this page also includes information and data on CLL, where it is available.
Lymphoma incidence, mortality and survival data for Europe
About 111,100 new cases of lymphoma were diagnosed in Europe in 2012 (representing about 3.5% of the total cancer cases in the region). Of these, 17,600 were Hodgkin lymphoma (0.5% of total cases) and 93,500 were other B-cell and T-cell lymphomas (3%). Europe accounts for approximately one-quarter of all new lymphoma cases worldwide, based on the available data from 2012.
The European Cancer Information System estimates these figures will have risen to 134,311 new lymphoma cases in 2018 (with 19,193 being Hodgkin lymphoma and 115,000 other lymphomas).
In Europe in 2012, Croatia had the highest age-standardised incidence rate for Hodgkin lymphoma for both men and women, while the lowest rates were in Iceland for men and Albania for women. The comparable data for other B-cell and T-cell lymphomas showed the highest incidence rates were in Italy for men and the Netherlands for women, while the lowest were in Albania for both men and women.
Reliable incidence data for CLL in Europe is not readily available.
In 2012, there were about 42,500 deaths from lymphoma in Europe (accounting for nearly 2.5% of all deaths from cancer in the region). Of these, 4,600 were from Hodgkin (0.3% of all European cancer mortality) and 37,900 from other B-cell and T-cell lymphomas (2%). Europe accounts for nearly one-fifth (18 to 19%) of all lymphoma mortality worldwide, based on the available data from 2012.
The European Cancer Information System estimates these figures will have risen to 52,403 lymphoma deaths in 2018 (with 4,307 from Hodgkin lymphoma and 48,096 from other B-cell and T-cell lymphomas).
Reliable mortality data for CLL in Europe is not readily available.
The European average for five-year relative survival for men with Hodgkin lymphoma is 80%. For countries where data is available, the rates range from 57% in Bulgaria to 87% in Norway.
The European average for five-year relative survival for women with Hodgkin lymphoma is 82%. For countries where data is available, the rates range from 65% in Bulgaria to 89% in Slovenia.
Graph: Hodgkin lymphoma (C81), Age-Standardised Five-Year Relative Survival, Adults (Aged 15+), European Countries, 2000-2007
With permission from Cancer Research UK - https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/hodgkin-lymphoma/survival#heading-Three – accessed 13 August 2018.
The European average for five-year relative survival for men with other B-cell and T-cell lymphomas is 57%. For countries where data is available, the rates range from 33% in Bulgaria to 69% in Iceland.
The European average for five-year relative survival for women with other B-cell and T-cell lymphomas is 62%. For countries where data is available, the rates range from 44% in Bulgaria to 79% in Iceland.
Given the high number of subtypes within the generalised category of lymphoma it is worth bearing in mind that survival rates will vary greatly from subtype to subtype, particularly between indolent (low-grade or chronic) and aggressive (high-grade or acute) lymphomas.
Graph: Other B-cell and T-cell Lymphomas (C82-C85, Age-Standardised Five-Year Relative Survival, Adults (Aged 15+), European Countries, 2000-2007
With permission from Cancer Research UK - https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/non-hodgkin-lymphoma/survival#heading-Five – accessed 13 August 2018.
The European average for five-year relative survival for men with CLL is 68%. For countries where data is available, the rates range from 42% in Bulgaria to 80% in Switzerland.
The European average for five-year relative survival for women with CLL is 74%. For countries where data is available, the rates range from 50% in Bulgaria to 82% in France.
Graph: Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (C91.1), Age-Standardised Five-Year Relative Survival, Adults (Aged 15+), European Countries, 2000-2007
With permission from Cancer Research UK - https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/leukaemia-cll/survival#heading-Zero – accessed 13 August 2018.
Sources and notes
- Cancer Research UK, https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/hodgkin-lymphoma; https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/non-hodgkin-lymphoma; https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/leukaemia-cll; accessed August 2018.
Incidence and mortality information and data
- Ferlay J, Steliarova-Foucher E, Lortet-Tieulent J, et al. Cancer incidence and mortality patterns in Europe: Estimates for 40 countries in 2012. European Journal of Cancer (2013) 49, 1374-1403.
- Ferlay J, Soerjomataram I, Ervik M, et al. GLOBOCAN 2012 v1.0, Cancer Incidence and Mortality Worldwide: IARC CancerBase No. 11 [Internet]. Lyon, France: International Agency for Research on Cancer; 2013. Available from: http://globocan.iarc.fr, accessed December 2013.
- European Cancer Information System (ECIS) - https://ecis.jrc.ec.europa.eu/index.php.
- The incidence and mortality data is for Europe and Worldwide, 2012, ICD-10 C81; for the 2018 incidence estimates from ECIS are for 40 European countries based on the data from the cancer registries participating in IARC’s “CI5: Cancer Incidence in Five Continents series” - http://ci5.iarc.fr/Default.aspx. ECIS’s mortality estimates for 2018 are extracted from the WHO mortality database - http://www.who.int/healthinfo/statistics/mortality_rawdata/en/.
- It is worth noting that variations in data between individual countries may be the result of a range of factors, including the different prevalence of risk factors, different diagnostic methods and/or varying data quality.
Survival information and data
- De Angelis R, Sant M, Coleman MP, et al. Cancer survival in Europe 1999-2007 by country and age: results of EUROCARE-5 - a population-based study. Lancet Oncol 2014;15:23-34.
- The survival data is for: 29 European countries, patients diagnosed in 2000-2007 and followed up to 2008, non-Hodgkin lymphoma (C82-C85).
- The survival data consists of both observed and predicted 5-year relative survival. Where sufficient follow-up was not available for recently diagnosed patients the period approach was used to predict 5-year cohort survival.
- Variations in international survival data may be the result of a number of factors such as differences in cancer biology, the use of different diagnostic tests and screening, stage at diagnosis, differences in access to high-quality care, and data collection practices.