Risk factors for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (2023)

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  • age
  • sex
  • Race, ethnicity and geography
  • family history
  • exposure to certain chemicals and drugs
  • exposure to radiation
  • weak immune system
  • autoimmune disease
  • certain infections
  • body weight
  • breast implants

A risk factor is anything that increases your chances of developing a disease such as cancer. Different types of cancer have different risk factors. Some risk factors, such as smoking, can be modified. Others, such as a person's age or family history, may not.

But having one risk factor, or even several risk factors, does not mean you will get the disease. Many people with this condition may have few or no known risk factors.

Researchers have identified several factors that may affect a person's chance of developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL). There are many types of lymphomas, and some of these factors are only associated with certain types.


Overall, aging is a major risk factor for lymphoma, with most cases occurring in people age 60 and older. But certain types of lymphoma are more common in younger people.


In general, men are at greater risk of developing NHL than women, but some types of NHL are more common in women. The reason for this is not clear.

Race, ethnicity and geography

In the United States, whites are more likely to develop NHL than African Americans and Asian Americans.

Globally, NHL is most common in developed countries, with the highest rates in the United States and Europe. Certain types of lymphoma are associated with certain infections (described later) that are more common in certain parts of the world.

family history

Having a first-degree relative (parent, child, sibling) with NHL increases your risk of developing NHL.

exposure to certain chemicals and drugs

Some research suggests that chemicals such as benzene and certain herbicides and insecticides (substances that kill weeds and insects) may be associated with an increased risk of NHL. Research to clarify these possible links is still ongoing.

Some chemotherapy drugs used to treat other types of cancer can increase your risk of NHL years later. For example, patients treated for Hodgkin lymphoma have an increased risk of developing NHL later in life. But it is not entirely clear whether this has something to do with the disease itself or whether it is an effect of the treatment.

Some research suggests that certain medications used to treat rheumatoid arthritis (RA), such as methotrexate and tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors, may increase the risk of NHL. But other studies have found no increased risk. Determining whether these drugs increase risk is complicated because people with RA, an autoimmune disease, are already at increased risk of developing NHL (see below).

exposure to radiation

Studies of survivors of nuclear bomb and nuclear reactor accidents have shown an increased risk of several cancers, including NHL,leukemia, ethyroid cancer

People receiving radiation therapy for other types of cancer, such asHodgkin lymphoma, with a slightly increased risk of developing NHL later in life. This risk is greater in patients receiving radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

weak immune system

People with weakened immune systems are at greater risk for NHL. For example:

  • People undergoing organ transplants are treated with drugs that suppress the immune system to prevent it from attacking the new organ. These people are at greater risk for NHL.
  • areHuman Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)It can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of NHL in HIV-infected people.
  • In some hereditary (genetic) syndromes, such as ataxia-telangiectasia (AT) and Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome, children are born with a faulty immune system. In addition to an increased risk of serious infections, these children are also at increased risk of developing NHL.

autoimmune disease

Some autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus), xerosis (Sjogren's disease), celiac disease (gluten sensitive enteropathy), and others are associated with an increased risk of NHL.

In autoimmune diseases, the immune system mistakenly perceives the body's own tissues as foreign and attacks them, just as it would attack bacteria. Lymphocytes (the cells that initiate lymphomas) are part of the body's immune system. An overactive immune system in autoimmune diseases can cause lymphocytes to grow and divide more often than normal. This can increase your risk of developing lymphoma cells.

certain infections

Certain types of infections can increase the risk of NHL in different ways.

Infection of directly transformed lymphocytes

Some viruses can directly affect the DNA of lymphocytes, which can turn them into cancer cells:

  • Infection with human T-cell lymphotropic virus (HTLV-1) increases the risk of certain types of T-cell lymphoma. The virus is most common in parts of Japan and the Caribbean, but has been found worldwide. It causes less than 1% of lymphomas in the United States. HTLV-1 is transmitted sexually and through infected blood and can be passed from infected mothers to children through breast milk.
  • In some parts of Africa, infection with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is a major risk factor for Burkitt lymphoma. In developed countries such as the United States, EBV is often associated with lymphoma in people co-infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The Epstein-Barr virus has also been linked to some less common forms of lymphoma.
  • Human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8) can also infect lymphocytes, causing a rare type of lymphoma called primary effusion lymphoma. This lymphoma is most common in patients with HIV infection. HHV-8 infection has also been linked to another type of cancer,Kaposi's sarcoma. So another name for this virus isHerpes virus associated with Kaposi's sarcoma(KSHV)。

Infections that weaken the immune system

Infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), also known as AIDS, weakens the immune system. HIV infection is a risk factor for certain types of NHL, such as primary central nervous system lymphoma, Burkitt's lymphoma, and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.

Infections that cause chronic immune stimulation

Some long-term infections can force the immune system to stay active, increasing the risk of lymphoma. As more lymphocytes are produced to fight infection, important genes are more likely to mutate, which can eventually lead to lymphoma. Some lymphomas related to these infections improve after the infection is treated.

  • Helicobacter pyloriA bacteria known to cause stomach ulcers has also been linked to gastric mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) lymphoma.
  • Chlamydia psittaci(formerly known asChlamydia psittaci) is a bacteria that can cause lung infectionspsittacose. It is associated with MALT lymphoma in the tissues around the eyes (so-calledOcular adnexal marginal zone lymphoma)。
  • bacterial infectionsCampylobacter jejuniAssociated with a type called MALT lymphomaimmunoproliferative disease of the small intestine. This type of lymphoma is sometimes calledMediterranean abdominal lymphomausually occurs in young people in the Eastern Mediterranean countries.
  • Long-term infection with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) appears to be a risk factor for certain types of lymphomas, such as splenic marginal zone lymphoma.

body weight

some studies showoverweight or obeseIt may increase the risk of NHL. More research is needed to confirm these findings. in each case,maintain a healthy weight,stay physically active, and followhealthy eating patternsEating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and limiting or avoiding red and processed meats, sugary drinks, and highly processed foods has many well-known health benefits, in addition to potentially reducing the risk of lymphoma.

breast implants

Although rare, some women with breast implants may develop lymphomas in the scar tissue (capsule) that forms around the implant. Most of them involve a rare form of T-cell lymphomarelated breast implantAnaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL), but other types of NHL have also been reported.

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Risk factors for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (1)

American Cancer Society medical content and editorial team

Our team consists of certified oncology doctors and nurses with in-depth knowledge of cancer care, as well as journalists, editors and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Cerhan JR, Kricker A, Paltiel O, et al. History, lifestyle, family history, and occupational risk factors for diffuse large B-cell lymphoma: InterLymph non-Hodgkin lymphoma subtypes project.Monographs from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute2014; 2014 (48): 15-25 doi: 10.1093/jncimonographs/lgu010.

[ PubMed ] Friedman AS, Jacobson CA, Moher P, Aster JC. Hoofdstuk 103: Non-Hodgkinlymfoom. In: DeVita VT, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA, eds.DeVita, Hermann and Rosenberg's Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 10e editie. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2015.

Hartage P, Smith MT. Environmental and behavioral factors and risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers2007;16:367-368。

National Cancer Institute. Consulting medical data (PDQ). Treatment of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in adults. 2018. Retrieved May 1, 2018 from www.cancer.gov/types/lymphoma/hp/adult-nhl-treatment-pdq.

RockCL, Thomson C, Gansler T, et al. American Cancer Society Diet and Physical Activity Guidelines for Cancer Prevention.CA: Journal of Cancer for Doctors.2020;70(4). doi: 10.3322/caac.21591. Retrieved June 9, 2020 from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.3322/caac.21591.

Rostzewski MJ, Wilson WH. Chapter 106: Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Doroshow JH, Kastan MB, Tepper JE, eds.Abelov's Clinical Oncology. Fifth edition. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2014.

Slager SL, Benavente Y, Blair A, et al. History, lifestyle, family history, and occupational risk factors for chronic lymphocytic leukemia/small lymphatic lymphoma: InterLymph non-Hodgkin lymphoma subtypes project.Monographs from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute。 2014; 2014 (48): 41-51. doi: 10.1093/jncimonographs/lgu001.

Smedby KE et al. Risk of autoimmune disease and subtypes of non-Hodgkin lymphoma: a pooled analysis in the InterLymph Consortium.Blood111.8 (2008): 4029-4038.

Smedby KE, Sampson JN, Turner JJ, et al. History, lifestyle, family history, and occupational risk factors for mantle cell lymphoma: the InterLymph non-Hodgkin lymphoma subtype project.Monographs from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute。 2014;2014(48):76-86。 doi:10.1093/jncimonographs/lgu007。

US Food and Drug Administration. Breast Implants: An Update - Breast Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL). 2017. Retrieved April 30, 2018 from www.fda.gov/safety/medwatch/safetyinformation/safetyalertsfor humanmedical products/ucm547622.html.

Latest revision:19 september 2022

American Cancer Society medical information is copyrighted material. For reprint requests, see ourContent Usage Policy


Who is most at risk for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma? ›

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma occurs more frequently among men than among women. It also occurs more frequently among Whites than among Blacks. Although children can get non-Hodgkin lymphoma, the risk of getting lymphoma increases with age. Approximately 70% of people diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma are age 50 and over.

What is the risk of getting non-Hodgkin's lymphoma? ›

Some factors that may increase the risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma include: Medications that suppress your immune system. If you've had an organ transplant and take medicines that control your immune system, you might have an increased risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Infection with certain viruses and bacteria.

What are the risk factors for lymphoma? ›

What are the risk factors for NHL?
  • Age. The risk of NHL increases with age. ...
  • Sex. An NHL diagnosis is slightly more common in men than women.
  • Bacterial infections. ...
  • Viruses. ...
  • Immune deficiency disorders. ...
  • Autoimmune disorders. ...
  • Organ transplantation. ...
  • Previous cancer treatment.

What is a risk factor for Hodgkin's lymphoma? ›

People who are infected with HIV are at greater risk for Hodgkin lymphoma. Weakened immune system. People with autoimmune diseases and those who take medicines to suppress the immune system after an organ transplant have an increased risk of Hodgkin lymphoma.

What chemicals cause non Hodgkin's lymphoma? ›

  • Chlorophenols.
  • Glycolates.
  • Solvents.
  • Styrenes.
  • Trichloroethylene.
  • 2,4,5-Trichlorophenoxyacetic Acid.
  • 2-Methyl-4-chlorophenoxyacetic Acid. Benzene.

Who is most likely to get lymphoma? ›

Factors that can increase the risk of lymphoma include:
  • Your age. Some types of lymphoma are more common in young adults, while others are most often diagnosed in people over 55.
  • Being male. ...
  • Having an impaired immune system. ...
  • Developing certain infections.
Dec 14, 2022

What age is a non-Hodgkin's lymphoma patient at risk? ›

Age. Getting older is a strong risk factor for lymphoma overall, with most cases occurring in people in their 60s or older. But some types of lymphoma are more common in younger people.

Is non-Hodgkin's lymphoma hereditary? ›

People who have a parent, sibling, or child who has had non-Hodgkin's have a higher risk of developing non-Hodgkin's than people without a family history. Researchers believe inherited genetic mutations might cause this.

Is non-Hodgkin's lymphoma survival rates? ›

With early diagnosis and advanced treatment methods, non-Hodgkin lymphoma has a high survival rate. If the cancer is confined to a single region, it has about an 83% survival rate. Even the most advanced stage of non-Hodgkin lymphoma has a survival rate greater than 60%.

How do you prevent non-Hodgkin's lymphoma? ›

There are no guidelines for preventing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. To reduce your risk, avoid exposure to chemicals such as herbicides, pesticides and benzene. If you have celiac disease (gluten intolerance), maintain your gluten-free diet.

Which client is at the highest risk for developing a lymphoma? ›

Age: The risk of being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma increases with age. More than half of all cases occur in patients older than 65. Gender: Men have a slightly greater chance of developing the disease than women. Race: Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is more common in Caucasians than in African Americans.

Can stress cause lymphoma? ›

There is no evidence that suggests stress causes lymphoma or other types of cancer. Researchers cannot provide evidence that psychological stress worsens lymphoma in humans, either. That said, some members have shared that stress can affect how they experience lymphoma and its side effects.

What is the main cause of Hodgkin's lymphoma? ›

The exact cause of Hodgkin lymphoma is unknown. However, your risk of developing the condition is increased if: you have a medical condition that weakens your immune system. you take immunosuppressant medication.

Who is most likely to get Hodgkin lymphoma? ›

age and gender – anyone can get Hodgkin lymphoma but it's more common in people aged 20 to 40 or over 75; it also affects slightly more men than women. having a medical condition that weakens your immune system, such as HIV.

What environmental factors cause Hodgkin's lymphoma? ›

Exposure to trichloroethylene has been associated with an increased chance of developing Hodgkin's disease and other cancers. Machinists in the metal working industry have also been reported to have a higher than average incidence of Hodgkin's disease.

Does non-Hodgkin's lymphoma run in families? ›

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma isn't infectious and isn't thought to run in families, although your risk may be slightly increased if a close relative (such as a parent or sibling) has had lymphoma. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma can occur at any age, but a third of cases are diagnosed in people over 75.

Does lymphoma show up in blood work? ›

Blood Tests for Lymphoma

Blood tests are essential to accurately diagnosing this complex disease. These tests can show whether you have lymphoma cells or abnormal levels of normal cells: Blood smear: We take a drop of blood and look at it under a microscope.

Which drugs can cause lymphoma? ›

Past studies have found a significantly elevated risk of lymphoma in association with use of antibiotics (3–5), nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and other analgesics (3, 6–8), corticosteroids and other immunosuppressants (3, 6, 9–12), histamine2-receptor antagonists (13, 14), psychotropic drugs (3, 11, 15) ...


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