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Lymphomas constitute a heterogeneous group of malignant disorders with different clinical behaviours, pathological features and epidemiological characteristics. For some lymphoma subtypes, epidemiological evidence has long pointed to infectious aetiologies. A subset of Hodgkin lymphoma is strongly linked to Epstein–Barr virus (EBV) infection. In addition, infectious agents can directly infect and transform lymphocytes (e.g. EBV, human herpesvirus 8), induce immunosuppression (human immunodeficiency virus), or cause chronic immune stimulation (hepatitis C virus, Helicobacter pylori), all of which may play a role in the development of various non-Hodgkin lymphoma subtypes. Here, we review the epidemiological evidence linking infections with malignant lymphoma.