Causes and prevention of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL)

The exact 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 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: Certain viruses can help lymphoma to develop. For example, Epstein-Barr virus and human T-cell leukaemia virus 1.
  • Bacteria: MALT lymphoma can be caused by the Helicobacter pylori bacteria.
  • Coeliac disease: If you have poorly controlled coeliac disease, you are more at risk of developing B-cell or a rare T-cell lymphoma. Coeliac disease is a condition where you cannot tolerate the gluten in cereal grains.

Remember lymphoma is neither inherited nor infectious, so it cannot be passed on to other people.