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Can Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Be Prevented?

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There is no sure way to prevent non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). Most people with NHL have no risk factors that can be changed, so there is no way to protect against these lymphomas. But there are some things you can do that might lower your risk for NHL, such as limiting your risk of certain infections and doing what you can to maintain a healthy immune system.

Infection with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is known to increase the risk NHL, so one way to limit your risk is to avoid known risk factors for HIV, such as intravenous drug use or unprotected sex with many partners. You can read more about HIV infection in HIV Infection, AIDS, and Cancer.

Preventing the spread of the human T-cell lymphotropic virus (HTLV-1) could have a great impact on non-Hodgkin lymphoma in areas of the world where this virus is common, such as Japan and the Caribbean region. The virus is rare in the United States but seems to be increasing in some areas. The same strategies used to prevent HIV spread could also help control HTLV-1.

Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection has been linked to some lymphomas of the stomach. Treating H. pylori infections with antibiotics and antacids may lower this risk, but the benefit of this strategy has not been proven yet. Most people with H. pylori infection have no symptoms, and some have only mild heartburn. More research is needed to find the best way to detect and treat this infection in people without symptoms.

Some lymphomas are caused by treatment of other cancers with radiation and chemotherapy or by the use of immune-suppressing drugs to avoid rejection of transplanted organs. Doctors are trying to find better ways to treat cancer and organ transplant patients without increasing the risk of lymphoma as much. But for now, the benefits of these treatments still usually outweigh the small risk of developing lymphoma many years later.

Some studies have suggested that being overweight or obese may increase your risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Staying at a healthy weight, keeping physically active, and following a healthy eating pattern that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and that limits or avoids red and processed meats, sugary drinks, and highly processed foods may help protect against lymphoma, but more research is needed to confirm this.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Freedman AS, Jacobson CA, Mauch P, Aster JC. Chapter 103: Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In: DeVita VT, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA, eds. DeVita, Hellman, and Rosenberg’s Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 10th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2015.

Rock CL, Thomson C, Gansler T, et al. American Cancer Society guideline for diet and physical activity for cancer prevention. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. 2020;70(4). doi:10.3322/caac.21591. Accessed at on June 9, 2020.

Roschewski MJ, Wilson WH. Chapter 106: Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Doroshow JH, Kastan MB, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier; 2014.

Last Revised: June 9, 2020

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