Researchers from an Israeli university said they have found a link between native Israelis and their risk of developing Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer that starts in the white blood cells. The Jewish country is reported to have highest rates of this cancer in the world and its occurrence has increased over past 45 years.

The research was conducted by Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Public Health and Community Medicine on a cohort of 2.3 million Israeli youths, both males and females aged between 16 and 19, who did not have cancer diagnosis history. The participants, who were divided by country of origin, were followed up to 45 years.

During the study time frame, 2,093 cases of Hodgkin’s lymphoma cropped up among the participants. Researchers found that those born in Israel had 60 percent increased risk of developing nodular sclerosis Hodgkin’s lymphoma compared to those born in other countries. The susceptibility of cancer rose within one generation and the low rate of Hodgkin’s lymphoma was not seen in Israeli-born people from Western Asian countries, the study noted.

Researchers suggested that environmental factors such as stress and pollution led to a jump in the prevalence of the cancer.

“The rate of Hodgkin’s lymphoma in Israel is among the highest in the world,” Dr. Hagai Levine, lead researcher of the study said, in a statement released Friday. “It is possible that environmental pollutants such as pesticides are what are behind the rise in this cancer, as Israel is a leader in the use of such products,” Dr. Levine said. “Being exposed to certain materials during pregnancy or childhood could raise the risk of various illnesses, and among them cancer.”

“Another possibility is stress,” Dr. Levine explained said, adding, “We know this is a conflict-riddled area and that more and more research has shown that exposing the mother to stress during pregnancy can raise the risk of illnesses such as cancer.”

The study was published Friday in peer-reviewed Leukemia & Lymphoma journal.