A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.
It is possible to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma with or without the risk factors listed below, but it is still important to be aware of risk factors. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.
Certain risk factors can not be changed. For example, non-Hodgkin lymphoma is more common in people over 60 years old. It is also more common in men.
Other factors that may increase the chance of non-Hodgkin lymphoma include:
Suppressed Immune System
Cancer cells of non-Hodgkin lymphoma develop from cells of the immune system. As a result, challenges or weakness of the immune system may increase the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Examples include:
- Chronic infections such as Epstein-Barr (causes mononucleosis), HIV, helicobacter pylori (causes peptic ulcers) or HTLV.
- Autoimmune diseases such as Sjogren syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, or systemic lupus erythematosus
- Medications that suppress the immune system such as those used to prevent organ transplant rejection
Occupational or Environmental Exposures
Exposures to certain chemicals or radiation may increase the risk of lymphoma. People who work around pesticides, fertilizers, and certain chemical solvents have a greater chance of developing non-Hodgkins lymphoma than people who do not.
People who have survived nuclear accidents or explosions are also at an increased risk. Fallout from nuclear radiation stays in the environment for years. However, radiation exposure from medical and dental x-rays is not associated with an increased risk.
People who have a parent with non-Hodgkins lymphoma may have an increased risk of developing it. This is especially true if the family member had lymphoma at an early age.
Smoking introduces a variety of harmful chemicals into the body that can affect the DNA of cells. The lymph also help carry the chemicals out of the body. The risk of lymphoma increases with the number of cigarettes smoked and years as a smoker.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society website. Available at: http://www.lls.org/lymphoma/non-hodgkin-lymphoma. Accessed January 28, 2021.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116014/Non-Hodgkin-lymphoma-NHL. Accessed January 28, 2021.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma risk factors. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/non-hodgkin-lymphoma/causes-risks-prevention/risk-factors.html. Accessed January 28, 2021.
7/7/2014 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillancehttp://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116074/Sjogren-syndrome: Liang Y, Yang Z, Qin B, Zhong R. Primary Sjogren's syndrome and malignancy risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Ann Rheum Dis. 2014;73(6):1151-1156.
Last reviewed December 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP Last Updated: 1/28/2021