Risk Factors for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.

It is possible to develop non-Hodgkin's lymphoma with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your healthcare provider what you can do to reduce your risk.

Risk factors include:

Medical Conditions

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma seems to occur more often in people who:

  • Have been infected with Epstein-Barr virus, which causes mononucleosis
  • Are infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) , which weakens the immune system
  • There is some evidence that long term stimulation of the immune system, such as occurs with patients who have immune-mediated diseases like gluten intolerance, may increase the risk of lymphoma slightly.


Some non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas are associated with the use of immunosuppressive drugs that are used to prevent transplant rejection. These drugs weaken your immune system response.

Advancing Age

The chance of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma increases with age. Among 20 year olds, about four cases occur for every 100,000 people. That increases to 40 cases per 100,000 among 60 year olds and 80 cases per 100,000 among people older than 75.


Men are more likely than women to develop non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. About 31,100 males will be diagnosed this year with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, compared with 25,100 females.

Chemical and Radiation Exposure

People who work around pesticides, fertilizers, and solvents have a greater chance of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma than people who do not have this exposure. People with significant exposure to radiation, such as survivors of atomic explosions or accidents or those exposed to radon gas, are more likely to develop lymphoma. Therapeutic x-rays do not increase the risk of lymphoma.


The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society website. Available at: http://www.leukemia-lymphoma.org/hm_lls .

National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/ .

Last reviewed February 2007 by Barbara Harty-Golder, MD, JD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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