I have a friend, lets call her Jane. Jane is not allowed to give blood, this is because she has a medical condition whereby she is prone to having polyps in her digestive system. As I understand this means she has a higher risk of cancer.

Can this sort of cancer be passed through blood and if not why is this restriction in place? I.e what is this a precaution against? The situation may be more complicated than I realise, but this is my basic understanding.

If it's relevant Jane lives in the UK.

  • What is her exact medical diagnosis? For example, familial adenomatous polyposis is a hereditary condition in which numerous polyps in the colon become cancerous at young age.
    – Jan
    Jan 31 '18 at 10:23
  • I don't know for sure, I know it's hereditary but it's not really appropriate to probe Jane in this case to fulfill my own curiosity.
    – Suipaste
    Jan 31 '18 at 11:26

I presume she is at risk for developing bowel malignancy at some time in the future. So, unless she is screened very regularly, then if she is accepted as a blood donor, she might be donating blood while she is in a cancerous state. Now, is there evidence of the ability to transfer cancer from one person to another via blood transfusion? This has been looked at historically and

Despite the many millions of units transfused since the advent of allogeneic blood transfusion, there is no evidence to support the theoretical concern that cancer could be transmitted via blood. Apart from the United States and Australia, though, most blood services still practice a precautionary exclusion of donors with a history of cancer based on experience in organ transplantation and, to a lesser extent, HSCT

Can Blood Tranfusion Transmit Cancer? A Literature Review

So, the UK blood transfusion service is adopting the same precautionary approach.

But there is evidence that as yet unknown carcinogenic agents are transmitted by blood transfusion.

In a large cohort of UK women, transfusions in the 21st century were associated with long-term increased risks of liver cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Some of these malignancies may have been caused by carcinogenic agents that are not currently screened for in transfused blood.

Cancer risk among 21st century blood transfusion recipients

A large study from Denmark and Sweden reported relative risks 5–9 years after blood transfusion in 1992–2002 of 1.86 for liver cancer and 1.20 for non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Cancer incidence in blood transfusion recipients.

The likely candidates are Epstein-Barr virus and hepatitis G both of which are not screened for in blood donors.

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