Jews have a genetic predisposition to lymphoma, and due to Israel’s size, much of the population lives near agricultural areas and is exposed to pesticides that can increase the risk by up to 35 percent, senior hematologist Professor Ora Paltiel says.
Israel leads the world in the number of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) cases, and has the second-highest mortality rate from the disease, according to a report from the Israel Cancer Association and Health Ministry published Wednesday and presented as a press conference hosted by the ICA.
Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system that affects lymphocytes, a type of immune cell. Lymphoma is linked to numerous other diseases, including infectious diseases such as hepatitis and AIDS; germs like Helicobacter pylori; and autoimmune diseases, as well as exposure to pesticides and certain chemicals.
According to the report, released for World Cancer Day, out of every 100,000 Israelis, 18.1 males and 14.6 females suffer from lymphoma. The closest country to reach that incident rate is Lebanon, where 14.7 males and 11.5 females out of every 100,000 have the disease. Israel’s mortality rates from the disease are 4.8 males and 3.5 females out of every 100,000 people.
The five-year survival rate for Israeli lymphoma patients is around 70 percent. According to the Health Ministry’s cancer registry, in 2012 there were 1,034 new patients suffering from NHL and 545 people died that year from the disease.
The incident rate of NHL rose between 1990 and 2012, with a marked 27 percent increase among Jewish men, and a 49 percent increase among Arab women. NHL is the fifth leading cause of death among men and sixth among women.
According to Professor Ora Paltiel, a senior physician in Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital’s Hematology Center, Jews have a genetic predisposition to lymphoma. “There is a genetic element. Jews are at a higher risk to get lymphomas. We also believe that proximity to agricultural areas is a risk factor in getting lymphomas. Because we are a very small country, many of us live in agricultural areas and receive higher exposure. Studies have shown that pesticides raise the risk of getting lymphoma by 35 percent,” Paltiel said.
The deputy director of the Health Ministry’s National Disease Control Center, Dr. Lital Keinan-Boker, described lymphoma as the cancer of wealthy countries. The disease is on the rise in all developed nations.
The press conference included general statistics about cancer in Israel. In 2012, 25,531 Israelis were diagnosed with some form of cancer and 10,640 died from malignancies. Israel had a marked 10 percent decrease in cancer-related deaths from 1990 to 2011 and in 2011 had a low overall cancer rate compared to other OECD nations.