Association between red blood cell transfusions and development of non-Hodgkin lymphoma: a meta-analysis of observational studies

Blood. 2010 Oct 21;116(16):2897-907. doi: 10.1182/blood-2010-03-276683. Epub 2010 Jul 12.


The incidence of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) has increased steadily for the past few decades. Previous studies have suggested an association between blood transfusions and NHL. The main objective of this study was to evaluate this relationship with a meta-analysis of observational studies. A literature search was undertaken, looking for case-control and cohort studies evaluating the risk of developing NHL in persons who received allogeneic blood transfusions; 14 studies were included. Outcome was calculated and reported as relative risk (RR). Heterogeneity was assessed with Cochrane Q and I(2) statistics. Dissemination bias was evaluated by funnel plot visualization and trim-and-fill analysis. Quality assessment was performed with the Newcastle-Ottawa scale. Our analysis showed a RR of developing NHL of 1.05 (95% CI, 0.89-1.25; P = .42) and 1.34 (95% CI, 1.15-1.55; P < .01) in case-control and cohort studies, respectively. When pooling all studies, RR was 1.2 (95% CI, 1.07-1.35; P < .01). In subset analysis, RR of chronic lymphocytic leukemia/small lymphocytic lymphoma (CLL/SLL) was 1.66 (95% CI, 1.08-2.56; P = .02). The RR of NHL was elevated in both men and women and in persons receiving transfusions either before or after 1992. Blood transfusions appear to increase the risk of developing NHL; however, the risk of CLL/SLL appears higher than for other NHL subtypes.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cohort Studies
  • Erythrocyte Transfusion / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin / etiology*
  • Male
  • Risk Assessment