Have you ever thought about donating blood, but didn’t know if you could or should? Can you donate blood if you’ve received a blood transfusion yourself…or if you’ve had cancer?
Rules about blood donation eligibility vary from state to state. If you have any questions regarding your eligibility, call the blood donation center ahead and ask if your specific circumstances make you ineligible.
Who is eligible to donate blood?
You are generally eligible to donate if you are:
- at least 17 years old (or 16 in some states); there is no upper age limit
- weigh a minimum of 110 pounds
- are in good health
What health conditions might make you ineligible?
- too high or too low blood pressure
- recent body piercing/tattoos (rules vary by state)
- Chagas disease
- cold, flu, current allergy symptoms
- some international travel
- organ/tissue transplants
- sexually transmitted disease/high risk behavior
- some medications
- some, but not all recent vaccinations
- recent seizures
- heart attack/heart disease (varies due to individual circumstances)
- active herpes lesions
- sickle cell disease
- a blood transfusion within the previous year
What if I’ve had cancer?
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), “While cancer has very rarely been transmitted through transplants of solid organs such as kidneys, cancer transmission by blood transfusion has not been reported in the medical literature.”
Researchers have studied people who received donated blood from donors who went on to develop cancer with five years of their donation. No increased risk to those who received the blood was found. There is some possibility that people with weak immune systems who receive blood that contains cancer cells may not be able to fend off the cancer cells.
The ACS says you cannot donate blood if:
- you are being treated for cancer
- your cancer is spreading or has come back
- you have had leukemia or lymphoma as an adult
- you have ever had Kaposi’s sarcoma
People who had leukemia or lymphoma as children are often allowed to donate after 10 years of being cancer-free.
Blood donation centers may have different requirements where cancer survivors are concerned. Some allow people who have had cancer to donate if it was treated one to five years ago and has not recurred. Some allow those whose cancer has not spread and required no treatment other than surgery to donate because there is little chance that cancer cells made it to the bloodstream.
Donating blood is a very generous thing to do. If you have any questions about your eligibility, it is wise to call ahead.