The importance of genetic factors in the etiology of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) is suggested by case-control and cohort studies. Most previous studies have been too small to estimate accurately risks of specific categories of lymphoproliferative malignancies in relatives of NHL cases or to quantify the contribution of NHL case characteristics to familial risk. We have overcome sample size limitations and potential recall bias by using large databases from Sweden and Denmark. Diagnoses of lymphoproliferative malignancies were compared in 70,006 first-degree relatives of 26,089 NHL cases (including 7,432 with subtype information) versus 161,352 first-degree relatives of 58,960 matched controls. Relatives of NHL cases were at significantly increased risk for NHL [relative risk (RR), 1.73; 95% confidence interval (95% CI), 1.39-2.15], Hodgkin lymphoma (RR, 1.41; 95% CI, 1.0-1.97), and nonsignificantly for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL; RR, 1.31; 95% CI, 0.93-1.85). No increased risk was found for multiple myeloma among case relatives. Findings with respect to siblings compared with parents and offspring or with respect to age at diagnosis of proband were inconsistent. In both populations, relatives of cases with an aggressive NHL subtype were at substantially increased risk of NHL (combined RR, 3.56; 95% CI, 1.80-7.02). We conclude that NHL has an important familial component, which is shared with Hodgkin lymphoma and CLL. We estimate that the absolute lifetime risk for a first-degree relative of an NHL case to develop NHL is 3.6% (compared with a population risk of 2.1%) and higher if the index case had an aggressive subtype of NHL.
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