Medical guidelines are in place to protect your health as a potential donor, as well as the health of transplant patients. Many factors may make a person medically ineligible to join the Be The Match Registry®.
Below are the guidelines for joining the registry. These guidelines aren’t the same as blood donation guidelines and don't include everything that could prevent you from donating bone marrow. If you’re a possible match for a patient, we’ll discuss your health history further and arrange for a thorough physical exam. This is to ensure your safety and the patient’s safety.
If you do not meet the medical requirements to join, there are other ways to be the cure.
Patients especially need donors who are between the ages of 18 and 44. That’s because younger donors produce more and higher-quality cells than older donors. However, anyone between the ages of 18 and 60 can join the Be The Match Registry.
Age guidelines are not meant to discriminate. They are meant to protect the safety of the donor and provide the best possible outcome for the patient. The lower age limit is based on the legal age of consent. A guardian or parent is not able to sign a release or give consent because unrelated bone marrow donation is a voluntary procedure.
The upper age limit is based on both donor and patient considerations. There is a small increase in the risk of complications from donations in older donors. There is also a slightly increased risk of blood disorders in older people. In addition, studies have shown that patients who receive donated cells from younger donors have a better chance for long-term survival.
If you have been diagnosed with HIV (AIDS) you cannot register to become a potential volunteer donor listed on the Be The Match Registry.
If you suffer from mild allergies to animals, the environment or medications, etc., you will be allowed to register to donate. Life-threatening allergies to medications or latex will need to be carefully evaluated before you may join the Be The Match Registry as a potential volunteer donor. See Asthma.
If you have asthma requiring regular/daily use of oral (pill) steroids, you will not be allowed to register.
You are not able to join if you have an autoimmune illness that affects your whole body including:
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
- Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
- Multiple sclerosis
- Severe psoriasis
- Sjogren’s syndrome
- Ankylosing spondylitis
- Addison's disease
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
*This list includes common autoimmune disorders, but is not a complete list of all disorders considered autoimmune.
However, you ARE able to join if you have an autoimmune condition that affects one organ system that is mild and well-controlled or you are fully recovered, including:
- Celiac disease
- Crohn's disease
- Graves' disease
- Guillain-barre syndrome
- Hashimoto's thyroiditis
- Mild psoriasis
- Meniere's disease
- Raynaud's syndrome
- Ulcerative colitis
You are not able to register if you have a serious bleeding problem such as hemophilia or Factor V Leiden, or if you have ever had a deep vein blood clot, require anticoagulant medications, have aplastic anemia, or Von Willbrand’s Disease.
If you have elevated blood pressure (hypertension), you may register if your condition is well-controlled by medication or diet and if there is no associated heart disease. See Heart Disease/Stroke, if applicable.
If you have had a significant brain injury or had surgery in the brain tissue — even if currently recovered and asymptomatic — you are not able to register. See Heart Disease/Stroke, if applicable.
You are also not able to register if you have experienced more than 6 concussions in your lifetime, symptoms from a concussion that lasted more than 1 month or a severe concussion where you were unconscious more than 1 hour.
If you have a history of pre-cancerous cells, you will be able to register to become a potential volunteer donor. You are able to register if you have any of the following, but did NOT require chemotheraphy:
- Cured, local skin cancer (basal cell or squamous cell)
- Healed melanoma in situ
- Healed cervical cancer in situ
- Healed breast cancer in situ
- Healed bladder cancer in situ
NOTE: In situ cancer is diagnosed at a very early stage and is specifically called “in situ” or Stage 0.
You MAY register if you have had any other type of cancer (with the exception of blood cancer), if it meets ALL of the following criteria:
- More than 5 years since diagnosis
- No recurrence or metastases
- No chemotherapy or radiation*
Chemical Dependency/Mental Health
If you have a history of chemical dependency and/or mental health issues you may be allowed to register. In general, if you have completed chemical dependency treatment, have maintained sobriety for at least 12 months, are currently sober and you have no physical ailments that may put you at risk during donation, you are allowed to register.
If you have a condition such as attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar or manic-depressive disorder, or depression, you are able to register as long as the condition is well controlled and you are also medically stable.
Serious mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder or delusional disorder will prevent you from registering to become a potential volunteer donor.
It is important that you are committed and able to follow through with the donation process. Guidelines used to evaluate your current chemical dependency/mental health status are meant to protect your safety and well-being and provide the best possible outcome for the patient.
Chronic neck, back, hip, or spine pain
Common back problems such as sprains, strains and aches may not interfere with a bone marrow donation. However, you are not able to join if you have on-going, chronic, significant pain areas of the neck, back, hip, or spine that:
- Interferes with your daily activities AND
- Requires daily prescription pain medication OR
- Requires regular physical therapy OR
- Requires regular chiropractor treatments
If you have significant back problems and/or any questions regarding your medical condition, contact your local donor center.
Cold or Flu
Recent infections such as colds or flu will not prevent you from registering to become a potential volunteer donor.
If you have a history of depression that is stable and well-controlled, you may register to become a potential volunteer donor.
If you have diabetes, a careful evaluation of your current health status will be necessary. In general, if your diabetes is well controlled by either diet or medications (other than insulin), you will be allowed to register. If you require insulin to treat diabetes or if you have diabetes-related serious health issues such as kidney, heart, nerve or eye disease, you will not be allowed to register. If you have questions regarding your diabetes, contact your local donor center or call 1 (800) MARROW2 (1-800-627-7692).
You may register if you have well-controlled epilepsy and have had no seizures in the past year.
In general, if you have heart disease you cannot become a potential volunteer donor. This includes a past heart attack, any history of angioplasty, bypass surgery, heart valve replacement surgery or pacemakers. However, some heart conditions such as congenital defects surgically corrected in childhood, mitral valve prolapse (MVP) that is well controlled, or successful cardiac ablation will not prevent you from registering to become a donor. Your situation will be evaluated on an individual basis.
If you have history of a stroke, a transient ischemic attack (TIA), an intracranial hemorrhage (epidural, subdural, subarachnoid), or other significant brain injury or surgery in the brain tissue — even if currently recovered with no symptoms — you are not able to register.
You will be allowed to join the Be The Match Registry if you have:
- Received a vaccine to prevent hepatitis
- History of fully-recovered hepatitis A
- Close or intimate contact with someone with active hepatitis B or C in the past year
- Possible exposure to hepatitis B or C in the past year
- History of jaundice due to mononucleosis or cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection
If you have the following, you cannot join the registry:
- Diagnosed with hepatitis B or C
- Been told you had a positive confirmatory test for hepatitis B or C
- Been told you are a carrier of hepatitis B or C (also known as a “chronic” infection)
- History of hepatitis or yellow jaundice (after age 11) without a known cause
If you have questions regarding hepatitis and registration, contact us at 1 (800) MARROW2 (1-800-627-7692).
More information about hepatitis and how it is transmitted may be found at the Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In general, you may register to become a potential volunteer donor if you have been hospitalized, had surgery or been injured and are fully recovered. See Heart Disease/Stroke, Back/Neck/Hip/Spine, and/or Kidney Problems, if applicable, regarding surgery.
If you have received a common immunization, you may register to become a potential volunteer donor. If you have received an investigational vaccine, however, your situation must be evaluated. Some immunizations (such as smallpox) will require assessment if you are selected as a potential donor.
You cannot register if you have serious or chronic kidney problems such as polycystic kidney disease or chronic glomerulonephritis. If you have had a kidney removed due to disease, you cannot register. However, if you donated a kidney to another person and are now fully recovered from that surgery, you are able to register. You are able to register if you have a history of kidney stones.
If you have a serious liver disease such hepatitis B, hepatitis C, cirrhosis or Wilson’s disease, you are not able to register. You are able to register if you have Gilbert’s syndrome. See Hepatitis, if applicable.
Lyme Disease/Tick-Borne Disease
If you have fully recovered from a tick-borne disease such as Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis, human anaplasmosis, or Rocky Mountain spotted fever, you may register to become a potential volunteer donor. If you have chronic Lyme disease, you may not register. The other tick-borne diseases mentioned are not believed to have chronic forms (in humans).
Treatment with some medications may affect your suitability to register as a potential volunteer donor. Most often it is not the actual drug itself but the condition requiring the medication that would determine your suitability. If you are currently taking medication(s), you may want to contact your local donor center to discuss the medication(s) and underlying condition.
Men Who Have Sex with Men
Men who have had sex with other men within the past 5 years are eligible to register as a potential volunteer donor. Safeguards are already in place to assess behaviors and screen for infectious disease at the proper time. See more information regarding this criterion.
Organ, tissue, marrow or stem cell transplant
If you have received human tissues, such as bone (including bone powder for dental procedures), ligaments, tendons, skin and corneas, you may be allowed to register to become a potential volunteer donor, depending on the reason for the procedure.
If you received any of the following types of transplants you may not register:
- Human organs such as heart, lung, liver or kidney
- Marrow or blood-forming cells
- Xenotransplant (live tissues from animals)
Piercing (Body, Skin, Ear)
You may register to become a potential volunteer donor if you have had ear or body piercing.
If you are pregnant you may register for the Be The Match Registry. However, you are not able to serve as a donor until you are fully recovered from the delivery or cesarean section. Blood-forming cells cannot be collected at any time during pregnancy.
If you are currently pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant, you may want to consider donating your baby's umbilical cord blood after your baby is born. To see if this is an option at your hospital, see Where to donate cord blood.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
You may register if you have received a tattoo.
You are allowed to register regardless of where you have traveled. If you are selected as a potential donor, recent travel to areas at risk for such infections such as malaria or mad cow disease will be evaluated.
You may join if you have a history of successfully treated tuberculosis.
A formula that measures body fat — called Body Mass Index (BMI) — is used to evaluate weight when determining donor suitability. You may not be allowed to register if your BMI (both underweight and overweight) would present a risk to your safety. See Weight guidelines for joining the registry for more information regarding upper weight criteria. While we do not have a guideline table listing minimum weight criteria, volunteers who are extremely underweight for their height would need to be carefully evaluated.