The intrauterine origins of Hodgkin's lymphoma

David J.P. Barker, Clive Osmond, Kent L. Thornburg, Eero Kajantie, Johan G. Eriksson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Background: Both small and large body size at birth are now known to predict a range of chronic disorders in adult life, including certain cancers. These associations are thought to reflect " fetal programming." This may lead to impairment of a small number of key systems including the immune system. Hodgkin's lymphoma is a disease of the immune system. We have therefore examined the association between Hodgkin's lymphoma and early development. Our hypothesis was that the disease would be associated with markers of poor fetal growth, specifically small body size or small placental size at birth. Methods: Using the Finnish Cancer Registry we identified patients with Hodgkin's disease in a cohort of 20,431 people born in Helsinki during 1924-44. Each person has a detailed birth record. Results: There were 12 patients with Hodgkin's disease, giving an incidence comparable to international rates. The disease was associated with prolonged gestation. For every additional week of gestation the hazard ratio was 1.37 (95% CI 1.00-1.87; p=. 0.05). The disease was also associated with a short placental surface. After allowing for gestation, for each centimetre increase in surface length, the hazard ratio was 0.70 (0.53-0.92; p=. 0.01). The disease was not associated with birth weight or length or maternal body size. Conclusions: We have shown that Hodgkin's lymphoma is associated with prolonged gestation and a short length of the placental surface. We speculate that Hodgkin's lymphoma is initiated by two events in fetal life. One, which is an immune event, is associated with prolonged gestation, while the other is associated with growth faltering.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)321-323
Number of pages3
JournalCancer Epidemiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Hodgkin's lymphoma
  • Placental size
  • Prolonged gestation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


Dive into the research topics of 'The intrauterine origins of Hodgkin's lymphoma'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this