Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma risk factors

In most cases, it is not known what causes non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). Some individuals without any of the known risk factors may still develop the disease. It is not clear why certain factors may increase your risk, or how a particular factor may affect the likelihood of developing NHL.

Some of the risk factors for non-Hodgkin lymphoma may be beyond our control, such as age and gender. Our lifestyle choices may also play a role in our risk for developing the disease. Some studies are exploring how a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables may actually lower the risk of lymphoma.

cancer risks

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma risk factors


  • Age: Individuals age 60 and older are at an increased risk for developing the disease.
  • Gender: Men have a slightly greater chance of developing the disease than women.
  • Race: NHL is more common in Caucasians than African Americans.


  • Autoimmune disease (e.g., rheumatoid arthritis, lupus)
  • Viruses, infection (e.g., HIV/AIDS, Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection, Epstein-Barr virus, human T-cell leukemia/lymphoma virus, human herpes virus 8, hepatitis C virus)


  • Inherited immune disorder (e.g., hypogammaglobulinemia, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)


  • Exposure to certain chemicals (e.g., pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides)


  • Immunosuppressant drugs (e.g., administered after an organ transplant)

Understanding risk factors

Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer. Not having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will not get cancer. If you think you may be at risk, you should discuss it with your doctor.

Have a question?

Chat now

Or call and ask an Oncology Information Specialist. We're here 24/7.

(888) 552-6760