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What are the chances I’ll be asked to donate?

October 5, 2022

On average, 1 in 1,500 donors is asked to donate their blood stem cells. However, a couple of considerations can increase the chance of you being asked.

Your gender and age

Research has shown that being a male and young donor can increase a patient’s chance of a successful transplant. Why? Men are physically bigger and can make more blood stem cells. Age has also been linked to higher rates of success. One of the main reasons is an increase in health complications as people get older. Some of these complications can be passed on or affect the patient.

This doesn’t mean we don’t need females on the registry. What makes donating more complex is when a woman is pregnant or breastfeeding. Women who have been pregnant can also produce antibodies, which may trigger a condition called Graft versus Host Disease (GvHD) in patients who receive their donated cells. When matching a donor and a patient, minimising risks and ensuring the well-being of both parties is a key priority.

Your ethnic background

The matching process can hinge on the donor’s and patient’s HLA (human leukocyte antigen) markers. These HLA markers are genetic. The combination of HLA types can be more complex in some ethnic groups, affecting their likelihood of finding a suitable match.

Keeping us updated with changes to your contact details

When you join the registry, you can stay with us until your 60th birthday. This means you could spend decades on the blood stem cell register! You could move house, get married, change your phone, or email address during this time. When you change your contact details, and we aren’t aware, we won’t be able to contact you if you are chosen as a potential match. In the first instance, we will always try and call you. If we have no luck, we will try and email or SMS you asking you to get in contact with us. We may write to you if we can’t reach you at this point. We need to be able to reach you quickly. By keeping us up to date when your contact details change, we can reach you to let you know the good news. You can update your details with us on the Strength to Give donor portal.

You’re unique

Even though some considerations can increase your chance to donate, it ultimately comes down to your HLA markers being the most suitable match for a patient. The reality is we have a wide variety of donors chosen to donate – some are in their 20s while others are in their 50s, male or female. The aim is to provide a curative treatment so the patient’s medical team will carefully consider and pick a donor who will give their patient the best chance at a successful transplant.


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