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Is there a link between tobacco smoke exposure and the development of alimentary lymphoma in cats?
  1. Ellie Mardell
  1. Feline Better, Chester, UK
  1. email: ellie{at}

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Lymphoma is the most common tumour affecting cats, and the incidence of this tumour type appears to be higher in cats than in any other species. Despite this, the potential causes of lymphoma, and the risk factors associated with its development, have not been well investigated. Most epidemiological studies instead place greater emphasis on descriptions of presentation, anatomical sites involved, treatment protocol selected and response to treatment.

It is well documented that both feline leukaemia virus (FeLV) and, to a lesser extent, feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) infections are associated with a markedly increased incidence of tumour development, particularly lymphomas. FeLV can increase the risk of – usually T cell – lymphoma occurrence 60-fold, whereas FIV (typically causing B cell lymphoma) increases the risk around five- or six-fold.1

The prevalence of FIV has changed little over the years, but FeLV infection rates have decreased dramatically in many countries following vaccine introduction and a widespread test and isolate or euthanase policy. This has led to a change in the profile of lymphoma cases that are seen, with the non-retroviral associated lymphomas of certain anatomical sites, including alimentary lymphoma, becoming numerically more important.2 In fact, alimentary lymphoma in its various grades and types (Figs 1 and 2), is now the most common anatomical form of lymphoma in cats.3

Fig 1:

Diffuse low-grade alimentary lymphoma can be ultrasonographically indistinguishable from normal intestinal tissue in some feline patients, as seen in this example

Fig 2:

Circumferential thickening of the duodenum with loss of intestinal layering, such as may be seen in alimentary lymphoma

Whether regressive FeLV infection, in which the host is PCR-positive but antigen-negative, is involved in the pathogenesis of lymphoma remains to be determined. However, as far as a link between alimentary lymphoma and regressive FeLV infection is concerned, it may be relevant to …

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