Burkitt lymphoma

Dr Jeremy Jones and Dr Henry Knipe et al.

Burkitt lymphoma (BL) is an aggressive B-cell lymphoma that predominantly affects children.

Burkitt lymphoma is the most common (40%) type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in childhood. The median age of Burkitt lymphoma is eight years, and it has a male predominance (M:F = 4:1) 1. It is less common in adults, accounting for 1-2% of lymphomas 4,5.

There are geographic differences with Burkitt lymphoma, which is considered endemic in parts of Africa (rates are up to 50 times higher than in the USA), with sporadic cases occurring elsewhere.

  • post-transplant immunosuppression

Burkitt lymphoma affects many organs, and this affects presentation. Extranodal involvement is common (~30%) at presentation, most often presenting as an abdominal or pelvic mass. Most patients present with widespread disease.

Three forms of Burkitt lymphoma have been described 1, 2:

  • endemic BL: linked to EBV and Plasmodium falciparum malaria infections
  • sporadic BL: aetiology unknown
  • immunodeficiency-associated BL: occurs in patients with HIV, post-transplant or congenital immunosuppression

Burkitt lymphoma is an aggressive tumour with a doubling time of 24 hours. It can present in a wide variety of locations:

  • head and neck, e.g. facial bones, Waldeyer's ring
  • pleural space (~70%)
  • gastrointestinal tract, especially the ileocaecal region
  • mesentery, peritoneum, retroperitoneum
  • kidneys
  • gonads (~75%)

Nodal involvement is more common in adults than in children 5.

Radiographic features vary widely depending on organ involvement:

Burkitt lymphoma can be treated with chemotherapy. In children, the prognosis is good with survival rates >90%. In adults, the prognosis is poorer, with a 5-year survival rate of ~50% and is even worse with bone marrow or CNS involvement (>30% 5-year survival rate) 4.

First described by Denis Parsons Burkitt, an Irish surgeon, in 1958 in Uganda, Africa.

  • other forms of high-grade B-cell lymphoma
  • Crohn disease may mimic Burkitt lymphoma on ultrasound, barium studies and CT 3
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Article information

rID: 32607
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Burkitt's lymphoma
  • Burkitt's lymphomas
  • Burkitt lymphomas
  • American Burkitt lymphoma
  • Sporadic Burkitt lymphoma
  • Endemic Burkitt lymphoma

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Cases and figures

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    Case 5: with ileocaecal involvment
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