Burkitt lymphoma is a rare but highly aggressive (fast-growing) B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). This disease may affect the jaw, central nervous system, bowel, kidneys, ovaries, or other organs. Burkitt lymphoma may spread to the central nervous system (CNS).
Translocation (a type of rearrangement) of a gene called MYC is a hallmark of Burkitt lymphoma, making this an important finding for diagnosis. In adults, Burkitt lymphoma is often indistinguishable from diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL)–another aggressive B-cell lymphoma. Accurate diagnosis of Burkitt lymphoma is critical because Burkitt lymphoma and DLBCL are treated differently. That is why it is strongly recommended patients seek an opinion from an expert in lymphoma.
Types of Burkitt Lymphoma
Endemic Burkitt lymphoma
Endemic Burkitt lymphoma originates in Africa. It is the most common type of Burkitt lymphoma and the most common childhood cancer overall. It has an incidence rate of about 50 times higher in equatorial Africa and New Guinea than in the U.S. The most common site of endemic disease is the jaw. Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) has been shown to be linked to the endemic form of Burkitt lymphoma.
Sporadic Burkitt lymphoma
Sporadic Burkitt lymphoma occurs throughout the world. This form seen in the United States and Western Europe accounts for less than one percent of B-cell NHLs in adults; however, it accounts for 30 percent of all childhood lymphomas. An abdominal tumor is the most common site of disease occurrence.
Immunodeficiency-related Burkitt lymphoma
Immunodeficiency-related variety of Burkitt lymphoma is most common in people with human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS). It can also occur in patients who have inherited immune deficiencies or those who take immunosuppressive medications to prevent rejection after an organ transplant.
To learn more about Burkitt lymphoma, download the Burkitt Lymphoma Fact Sheet.