Abstract 3921

Poster Board III-857

The t(14;18)(BCL2/IgH) translocation is the genetic hallmark of follicular lymphoma (FL). Circulating t(14;18)-positive cells can not only be detected in FL patients but also in healthy subjects without lymphoma. Several epidemiological and molecular studies suggest that these t(14;18)-positive cells might represent lymphoma precursor cells and are associated with known FL risk factors like age and geographical differences in lymphoma incidence. We used epidemiological data and blood samples of a population-based study to verify associations of FL risk factors and t(14;18)-positive cells reported so far and to test for new associations.

The study of health in Pomerania (SHIP) collects epidemiological data, a basic health status and blood samples from 4310 randomly selected inhabitants of the study region in the northeastern part of Germany. We tested buffy coat-DNA samples from 4152 study participants (median age 50 years, range 20-81 years, 2100 women) by real-time PCR for the presence and frequency of t(14;18)-positive cells.

t(14;18)-PCR results were evaluable from 2620 subjects, 1533 subjects were tested positive (58.1%, median number of t(14;18)-positive cells in positive subjects 3.9 per million nucleated cells, range 0.6 – 9299 per million nucleated cells). t(14;18)-prevalence was lowest in the age group 20-29 years (42.2%) and increased up to the group 50-59 years (67.0%) but did not further increase up to the age of 81 years. In accordance with previous reports there was a significant increase of the t(14;18)-frequency with age up to the age of 69 years (linear regression, p< 0.0001) in this study. In the SHIP cohort, t(14;18)-prevalence was lower in females compared to males (53.2% versus 63.5%, p< 0.0001), but there was no significant difference in t(14;18)-frequency between males and females. Smoking status (current, former and never smoker) had no influence on t(14;18)-prevalence or frequency.

This study confirms the association of t(14;18)-prevalence with age and shows for the first time that the t(14;18)-prevalence in females is lower than in males. The later finding parallels the observation of a lower FL incidence in females. In contrast to previous studies, smoking was not associated with detection of t(14;18)-positive cells when the analysis was adjusted for age and sex. In summary, this study confirms that the prevalence of t(14;18)-positive cells in non-lymphoma subjects is associated with established FL risk factors. Thus our report adds to the accumulating evidence that circulating t(14;18)-positive cells in non-lymphoma subjects may represent a biomarker of FL risk.


No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.