Prevalence of hepatitis B or C virus infections in patients with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma


Correspondence: Dr M Nakamuta, Department of Medicine and Bioregulatory Science, Graduate School of Medical Sciences, Kyushu University, 3-1-1 Maidashi, Higashi-ku, Fukuoka 812-8582, Japan. Email:


Background: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) and hepatitis B virus (HBV) are not only hepatotropic, but also lymphotropic viruses. Recently, some reports suggested that these viruses may participate in the development of malignant lymphoproliferative disorders.

Methods: We investigated the prevalence of HCV or HBV infection in 348 patients with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL). We also compared these prevalences with those in blood donors as a control group representing the general population in our area (n = 1 513 358). Next, we evaluated the clinical and pathologic characteristics of HCV- or HBV-infected NHL cases. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma was classified according to the Working Formulation classification.

Results: Thirty-seven cases (14.9%) were found to be infected with HCV or HBV; of these, 20 (8.1%) were infected with HCV, and 17 (6.9%) with HBV. In male NHL patients, the rate of HCV infection was significantly higher than in an age- and sex-matched population in the same area (P < 0.001, Mantel– Haenszel test). The rate of HBV infection also tended to be higher in the population (P = 0.0551). In contrast, in female NHL patients, the rate of HCV or HBV infection was not higher than in the general population. In HCV-infected cases, 15 cases (75%) had B-cell NHL and 16 cases (80%) were classified as being in the intermediate grade; B-cell NHL comprised 83% of all NHL cases. In HBV-infected NHL cases, 11 (65%) were of B-cell type and 10 (58%) were classified as being in the intermediate grade.

Conclusions: The high prevalence of HCV or HBV infections in our study population provides epidemiologic evidence suggesting that HCV and HBV infections may be involved in the development of a subgroup of NHL in males. Our investigation also revealed that both HCV- and HBV-infected NHL patients showed certain similarities in clinical and pathologic manifestations.