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Between 1975 and 2001, there was a sharp and steady increase in the frequency of a relatively rare type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma known as ocular adnexal lymphoma. These results were published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) is a form of cancer that begins in the cells of the lymph system, which includes the spleen, thymus, tonsils, bone marrow, lymph nodes, and circulating immune cells. Lymphocytes are the main cells in the lymph system and exist in two forms: B- and T-cells. Each of these cells serves a specific function in aiding the body fight infection.

Ocular adnexal lymphoma is an uncommon type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that affects tissues surrounding the eye.

A previous study suggested that infection with a strain of Chlamydia known as C. psittaci may contribute to the development of ocular adnexal lymphoma in some individuals.[1] Infection with C. psittaci generally results from exposure to infected birds, cats, and other pets. Infection may cause psittacosis, an illness characterized by fever, chills, headache, sensitivity to light, cough, and muscle pain.[2]

The link with an infectious agent prompted interest in how the frequency of ocular adnexal lymphoma has changed over time. To explore U.S. trends in ocular adnexal lymphoma, researchers evaluated information from a large national cancer registry.[3]

  • Rates of ocular adnexal lymphoma were highest among Asians and Pacific Islanders, lower in Whites, and lower still in Blacks.
  • Rates of ocular adnexal lymphoma were similar in men and women.
  • Between 1975 and 2001, there was a steady increase in the frequency of ocular adnexal lymphoma. Among Whites, incidence of ocular adnexal lymphoma increased by roughly 6% per year, with no sign of leveling off. This pattern is different than what has been seen for other types of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
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This study suggests that the frequency of ocular adnexal lymphoma has increased sharply over time. In contrast, there has been no apparent increase over time in the frequency of psittacosis. The researchers note that additional studies are needed to confirm or refute a role for C. psittaci in ocular adnexal lymphoma, and to evaluate other factors that may explain the increasing frequency of this type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.


[1] Ferreri A, Guidoboni M, Ponzoni M et al. Evidence for an Association Between Chlamydia Psittaci and Ocular Adnexal Lymphomas. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 2004;96:586-94.

[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Psittacosis (Chlamydia psittaci) (Ornithosis). 1996 Case Definition. Available at: (Accessed July 11, 2006).

[3]Moslehi R, Devesa SS, Schairer C, Fraumeni JF. Rapidly Increasing Incidence of Ocular Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 2006;98:936-939.

Related News:Strain of Chlamydia Increases Risk for Ocular Lymphoma (11/9/2005)

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