What Are the Risk Factors for Lymphoma of the Skin?

A risk factor is anything that increases your chance of getting a disease like cancer. While most people with lymphoma of the skin may have some factors that make them more likely to get this disease (such as their age or gender), in most people there is no clear cause of the lymphoma. Having one or more risk factors doesn’t mean that you will develop this cancer.


Age is an important risk factor for this disease, with most cases occurring in people in their 50s and 60s. But some types of skin lymphoma can appear in younger people, even in children.

Gender and race

Most (but not all) types of skin lymphoma are more common in men than in women. Most also tend to be more common in African-Americans than in whites. The reasons for this are not known.

Weakened immune system

Skin lymphomas may be more common in people with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), who have a weakened immune system. They may also be more common in people who have had an organ transplant such as a heart, kidney or liver transplant. These people must take drugs that suppress their immune system, which may raise the risk of skin lymphoma (or lymphomas in other parts of the body).


Infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS, may increase a person’s risk of skin lymphoma.

Infection with the HTLV-1 virus has been linked with the rare adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma, although most people infected with this virus do not develop lymphoma. This infection is most often seen in parts of Japan and the Caribbean.

Infection with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) has been linked with some types of lymphoma, including extranodal NK/T-cell lymphoma, nasal type. But EBV infection is common, and most people infected with EBV do not go on to develop lymphoma.

In parts of Europe (but not in the United States), infection with Borrelia, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, has also been linked with skin lymphomas. This link has only been reported in a small number of cases—most people with skin lymphoma have not had Lyme disease, and most people with Lyme disease do not develop lymphoma of the skin.

Some studies have suggested that infections with other viruses might also be linked with skin lymphomas, but more research is needed on this.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master's-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: August 4, 2014 Last Revised: February 24, 2016

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