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Keywords:

  • Hodgkin lymphoma;
  • Epstein-Barr virus;
  • infectious mononucleosis;
  • EBNA1;
  • EBNA2

Abstract

A role for Epstein Barr virus (EBV) in Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) pathogenesis is supported by the detection of EBV genome in about one-third of HL cases, but is not well defined. We previously reported that an elevated prediagnosis antibody titer against EBV nuclear antigens (EBNA) was the strongest serologic predictor of subsequent HL. For the present analysis, we measured antibody levels against EBNA components EBNA1 and EBNA2 and computed their titer ratio (anti-EBNA1:2) in serum samples from HL cases and healthy siblings. We undertook this analysis to examine whether titer patterns atypical of well-resolved EBV infection, such as an anti-EBNA1:2 ratio ≤1.0, simply reflect history of infectious mononucleosis (IM), an HL risk factor, or independently predict HL risk. Participants were selected from a previous population-based case-control study according to their history of IM. We identified 55 EBV-seropositive persons with a history of IM (IM+; 33 HL cases, 22 siblings) and frequency-matched a comparison series of 173 IM history-negative, EBV-seropositive subjects on HL status, gender, age and year of blood draw (IM−; 105 cases, 58 siblings). In multivariate logistic regression models, an anti-EBNA1:2 ratio ≤1.0 was significantly more prevalent in HL cases than siblings (odds ratio, 95% confidence interval = 2.43, 1.05–5.65); similar associations were apparent within the IM+ and IM− groups. EBNA antibodies were not significantly associated with IM history in HL cases or siblings. These associations suggest that chronic or more severe EBV infection is a risk factor for HL, independent of IM history.