Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Overview

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Causes, Risk Factors, and Prevention TOPICS

What are the risk factors for non-Hodgkin lymphoma?

A risk factor is something that affects a person's chance of getting a disease like cancer. Some risk factors, such as smoking, can be controlled. Others, like a person's age or race can't be changed. But risk factors don't tell us everything. Having a risk factor, or even several risk factors, does not mean that you will get the disease. And many people who get the disease may have had few or no known risk factors. Even if a person with non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) has a risk factor, it is often very hard to know what part that risk factor may have played in the lymphoma.

Scientists have found a few risk factors that could make a person more likely to get lymphoma. There are many types of lymphoma, and some of these factors have been linked only to certain types.

  • Age – the risk of NHL goes up with age
  • Gender – overall, NHL is more common in men than in women
  • Race – in the United States, whites are more likely than African Americans or Asian Americans to get NHL.
  • Exposure to certain chemicals or chemotherapy drugs
  • Radiation exposure – such as from the atomic bomb, nuclear reactor accidents, or treatment for another cancer
  • Having a weakened immune system – like from HIV infection or having had an organ transplant
  • Autoimmune diseases ─ such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE, or lupus), celiac sprue
  • Certain infections
  • Being very overweight (obese) may also increase risk
  • Eating a diet high in fat and meats may also increase your risk, but this needs to be studied more
  • Breast implants are linked to NHL in the breast

Last Medical Review: 08/27/2014
Last Revised: 01/22/2016