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Burkitt lymphoma

Dr Daniel J Bell and Dr Henry Knipe et al.

Burkitt lymphoma is an aggressive B-cell lymphoma predominantly affecting children.

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

It is considered endemic in parts of Africa where rates are up to 50 times higher than in the USA. Cases occur sporadically outside of the tropics.

  • 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 Burkitt lymphoma: linked to Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and Plasmodium falciparum malaria infections
  • sporadic Burkitt lymphoma: etiology unknown
  • immunodeficiency-associated Burkitt lymphoma: occurs in patients with HIV, post-transplant or congenital immunosuppression

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

  • head and neck, e.g. facial bones, Waldeyer ring
  • pleural space (~70%)
  • gastrointestinal tract, especially the ileocecal 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 (1911-1993), an Irish surgeon, in 1958 in Uganda, Africa 6,7.

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

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

  • Case 1
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  • Case 2
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  • Case 3
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  • Case 4
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  • Case 5: with ileocecal involvment
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  • Case 6
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