Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) is the most common type of hematological cancer, or cancer that affects the blood or tissues that form the blood. This cancer type affects lymph tissues.

Having one type of cancer does not always keep you from getting another. Sometimes, there is a link between the two cancers. Other times, they arise completely independently of each other.

In this article, we’ll examine potential connections between NHL and melanoma, a type of skin cancer.

NHL is a cancer type that usually comes from immune cells in your body known as B cells and T cells. More than 60 different kinds of NHL exist. Doctors usually divide the types into aggressive and indolent (not aggressive).

The outlook for NHL depends on the type a person has.

Melanoma is a cancer type that affects a different part of your body: your skin and specifically the melanocytes that give your skin its color.

Although melanoma is rare (about 4 percent of diagnosed skin cancers), it’s the most aggressive form of skin cancer and accounts for about 75 percent of skin cancer deaths.

NHL can sometimes increase your risk of developing other cancer types, including melanoma. The link between NHL and lymphoma is likely related to immune system suppression when you undergo NHL treatments.

Immune system suppression can increase your risk of getting melanoma. If you need to take chemotherapy medications or other medications that may lower your immune system function, you could be more likely to get melanoma.

It’s worth pointing out that the benefits of cancer treatments outweigh the risks of immune system suppression related to chemotherapy for NHL. You should talk with your doctor about these risks and should not discontinue any medications unless your doctor recommends it.

Can NHL lead to other cancers?

Examples of other cancers you may be at an increased risk for with NHL include:

However, even if you do have NHL, this does not necessarily mean that you will get another cancer type.

Treatments for NHL depend upon the specific type, how advanced the cancer is, and the symptoms you’re experiencing.

The most common approach is chemoimmunotherapy, which involves taking chemotherapy medications to stop cancer cells from spreading.

However, there are other potential treatments for NHL. These include:

Surgery is the primary treatment for melanoma and other skin cancers. However, if melanoma cells have spread to lymph nodes or other areas of your body, a doctor may prescribe:

You’ll notice immunotherapy is a common treatment for both NHL and melanoma. The medications doctors prescribe to treat each are usually different, but the immunotherapy approach can be common for both cancer types.

Exposure to ultraviolet radiation, such as that from excessive sun exposure, is a major risk factor for melanoma. To reduce your risk for melanoma, you can take the following steps:

  • Refrain from using tanning beds or tanning lamps.
  • Stay in the shade when it’s sunny whenever possible. This will help to limit your exposure to ultraviolet rays.
  • Wear protective clothing when outdoors, such as a hat, sunglasses, and a shirt to keep yourself covered.
  • Wear sunscreen when going outdoors, even when it’s not sunny.

You can also perform monthly skin self-exams to identify any new moles or growths and see a dermatologist for routine exams.

The outlook for melanoma is strongly related to how much the melanoma has spread. For example, the 5-year relative survival rate for localized melanoma is 99 percent, according to the American Cancer Society.

However, the 5-year relative survival rate for distant melanoma (which has spread to nearby organs) is 30 percent.

Survival rates and outlook for NHL are a little more difficult to describe because there are so many types. However, the American Cancer Society reports that the 5-year relative survival rate for NHL overall is 73 percent.

Living with NHL and melanoma

Hearing you have another cancer type after you’ve received a diagnosis of NHL can bring up so many emotions. It’s a good idea to seek help, not only from loved ones but also from professionals and others who have these conditions.

  • The American Cancer Society offers support for those with all cancer types, including a 24/7 cancer helpline that provides support when you call 800-227-2345.
  • The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society offers family support groups. There are more than 130 in the United States.
  • The Lymphoma Support Network offers a one-to-one peer support program for lymphoma survivors and caregivers.
  • The Skin Cancer Foundation also offers an extensive listing of support for those with skin cancer and their caregivers.

You can also talk with your oncologist about potential local resources and support.

Was this helpful?

NHL can increase your risk for melanoma and other cancer types. In a study of nearly 16,000 people with NHL, researchers found an estimated 11 percent of participants experienced another cancer type. This number is higher than cancer rates for those without NHL.

While there aren’t occurrence-specific rates for NHL and melanoma, this skin cancer type is mentioned as a potential secondary cancer for those with NHL.

Talk with your doctor about how you can reduce your risks and identify melanoma in its earliest, most treatable stages.