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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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Burkitt lymphoma

Other Names for this Disease
  • BL
  • Burkitt's lymphoma
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What is Burkitt lymphoma?

Is Burkitt lymphoma inherited?

What is Burkitt lymphoma?

Burkitt lymphoma (BL) is a rare, aggressive form of B-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a type of cancer that affects the organs of the immune system. It is more common in males than females. Three forms exist: one endemic to Africa that is linked to the Epstein Barr virus (EBV); a sporadic form that develops mainly in the abdomen; and an immunodeficiency-associated form that occurs most commonly in individuals with HIV infection.[1][2] BL can also develop in the ear, nose, throat and more rarely in other locations.[1] Signs and symptoms may differ depending on the form of BL and the organs or body systems affected.[2] The exact cause of the condition is not known. Treatment typically includes a few months of intensive chemotherapy; the current cure rate is estimated to be about 80-90%.[1]
Last updated: 6/26/2012

Is Burkitt lymphoma inherited?

Burkitt lymphoma (BL) is typically not inherited; it is thought to be sporadic.[1] It generally occurs in individuals with no history of the condition in the family.

There is evidence that BL can be caused by changes (mutations) in the MYC gene in addition to exchanges of genetic material (translocations) involving the MYC gene and immunoglobulin genes (genes that provide instructions for antibodies).[3] However, these genetic changes are not inherited; they occur in the affected cells of affected individuals and are acquired during the lifetime. They are not passed on to offspring.

There was a report in 1986 which described 2 sisters in an American family who died of BL at ages 11 and 22 years. Their mother and 2 healthy brothers were known to have lymphocyte abnormalities. It was suggested that in this case, an inherited abnormality of lymphocytes was the cause for familial aggregation of BL.[3]
Last updated: 6/27/2012

  1. Catherine Patte. Burkitt lymphoma. Orphanet. February 2010; Accessed 6/26/2012.
  2. Ali H Kanbar. Burkitt Lymphoma and Burkitt-like Lymphoma. Medscape Reference. March 9, 2012; Accessed 6/26/2012.
  3. Marla J. F. O'Neill. Burkitt lymphoma; BL. OMIM. December 11, 2007; Accessed 6/26/2012.