What increases my risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma?

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The cause of non-Hodgkin lymphoma is unknown. But there are certain things called risk factors that can increase your chance of developing the disease. These include:          

  • Reduced immunity: Lymphomas are more likely to develop if your immunity is reduced due to an illness (like HIV) or if you're taking medication to prevent rejection after an organ transplant. It may also occur if you have been treated for another cancer.
  • Chemicals: In a small number of cases, working with chemicals such as insecticides and herbicides seems to increase the risk of developing lymphoma.
  • Immune system conditions: If you develop conditions that affect your immune system, you may be more at risk of getting lymphoma later in life. These conditions include rheumatoid arthritis, haemolytic anaemia, coeliac disease, Sjögren’s syndrome, lupus and psoriasis.
  • Viruses and bacteria: Certain viruses can help lymphoma to develop. For example, Epstein–Barr virus, hepatitis C virus, and human T-cell leukaemia virus 1 (HTLV 1). Bacterial infections like Helicobacter pylori can also be responsible for certain types of lymphoma.
  • Age: Lymphoma can occur at any age but it is more common in older people.
  • Gender: It’s more common for men to get lymphoma – the reason for this is unknown.

Having a risk factor doesn’t mean you will definitely get cancer. Sometimes people with no risk factors get the disease. If you’re worried, talk to your GP or talk to one of our cancer nurses. Call the Support Line on 1800 200 700 or visit a Daffodil Centre. 

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