Objectives: The role of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection in the pathogenesis of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) is controversial. A high prevalence of HCV infection in patients with NHL has been reported in Italy and Japan. By contrast, several studies in Northern Europe and Canada have not found any increased prevalence of HCV in B-cell NHL, suggesting a possible geographic variation. We sought to determine whether such an association could be found in patients treated in the Rhone-Alpes region in south-east France. Our main interest was to identify histological subtypes preferentially linked to HCV.
Methods: We determined the prevalence of anti-HCV antibodies in 212 consecutive patients with B-cell NHL diagnosed in our institution between January 1997 and December 1998. The comparison group comprised 974 patients tested for HCV before transfusion at the same hospital during the same period.
Results: Anti-HCV antibodies were found in six (2.8%) NHL patients. The distribution by histopathological category was as follows: three gastric mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) lymphomas, one marginal lymphoma and two diffuse large-cell lymphomas. Anti-HCV antibodies were found in 20 (2%) of 974 comparison patients. Overall, there was a positive but non-significant trend towards an association between NHL and HCV infection (odds ratio 1.31; 95% confidence interval 0.51-3.36). However, the prevalence of HCV antibodies was significantly higher in MALT lymphoma patients than in the comparison group (odds ratio 9.87; 95% confidence interval 2.59-37.69).
Conclusions: To our knowledge, this is the first French study to show an association between HCV and MALT lymphoma. These results, although derived from a small number of patients, suggest a possible role of HCV in gastric MALT lymphomagenesis.