Are You Eligible to Donate Blood?

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?

  • anemia
  • too high or too low blood pressure
  • recent body piercing/tattoos (rules vary by state)
  • Chagas disease
  • cold, flu, current allergy symptoms
  • hepatitis
  • infection
  • some international travel
  • organ/tissue transplants
  • pregnancy
  • 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.

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Find a Local Blood Center
Sources: America’s Blood Centers; American Cancer Society; National Institutes of Health

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Sheri J.
Sheri J.1 years ago

Please sign the pledge if you plan on donating blood or are a regular blood donor.
1 blood donation can help save up to 3 lives:

Judith Emerson
Judith Emerson3 years ago

Apparently my high veg diet "cured" my hepatitis! Got it in the '60s when my 1st husband & i split. Had a really bad 3 months of hell-bent self-destruction. However, when my doc tested me 4 yrs ago & told me i don't have hepatitis anymore, i was surprised as anyone could be. However, because i used to have seral hepatitis i cannont give blood, but i can sell my blood plasma with its immunity! Haven't done so yet, but i may as well look into it. :-D

Don Nicholas
Don Nicholas3 years ago

Donating blood is a noble thing to do, but it doesn't come without side effects, which are usually downplayed. Nevertheless, I've had a pretty negative experience the first time I donated blood. Then I decided to learn more about possible side effects and write it all down for others to see. You can read more about it here:

Crystal Cox
Crystal C.3 years ago

I'm pretty sure I'm eligible. I'll contact the closest place to donate, to find out. I just turned 17 last month, and am eager to see if it's possible for me to donate. I'm also curious to know my blood type. Can't wait to try to actively make a difference! Thanks for the info!

Emma S.
Emma S.3 years ago

Please do it if you can. I'm quite squeamish about blood but make myself go - they know I'm a 'potential fainter' so look after me especially well!

Victor M.
Victor M.4 years ago

Yes, every 4 months I do

Lika S.
Lika S.4 years ago

I donate regularly, and it helps clean your own blood cells up, because you make new ones. I'm just wondering, why does it seem like my blood sugars go up at that time?

Sheila D.
Sheila D.4 years ago

Thanks for the reminder. I'll have to get back into donating blood, if they'll still take it.

Margaret D.
Margaret D.4 years ago

I used to donate every chance I could. It is actually healthy for you to do so. I have not been able to donate because I visited Haiti and Mexico and both were on the watch lists. Make sure that even if you are not anemic, your iron level is up and you drink water prior to donation. I donated once when my iron level was borderline and got ill and almost fainted. Drinking water is supposed to help the blood flow. My husband clots too quickly, so cannot donate at all. They will not take your blood in this case either.

Jo Little
jo L.4 years ago

If you've never donated before, be sure to tell the BloodMobile folks that you're new to the procedure & ask if there's anything you should be aware of. And make sure they check your blood pressure! I've always felt donating blood was a very nobile thing to do and costs the donor NOTHING! When we had a blood drive at my new job, I was glad for the opportunity to help. The donation took longer than I was told, and I was rushing back to my seat when I passed out cold ... in front of 500 people. Paramedics came and ran EKGs as my pressure had dropped dangerous low and I had eradic heart rhythms. I found out later that by BP was low to begin with and I should not have been allowed to donate. At the very least I should have been told about the BP issue in order to make an informed decision. Donating truly is a nobil thing to do and I would encourage anyone who is able to do so. For others, like me, look for alternative ways to help.