You can only get shingles if you had chickenpox and the virus becomes reactivated. Only 20% of people who have had chickenpox get shingles. It is not known why some people get it and others do not.

Some of the factors that make people more likely to get shingles are:

Health Conditions

You are more likely to get shingles if you have a weak immune system. Conditions that raise your risk are:

  • History of childhood cancer
  • Current cancer, especially Hodgkin lymphoma , lymphoma, and leukemia
  • HIV infection or AIDS
  • Diabetes
  • Long term health problems that may alter your immune system

Medications and Procedures

Certain procedures and medicines may raise your risk, such as:

  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Steroids
  • Medicines that lower the immune system


People over age 60 are at higher risk.

Ethnic Background

White people are at higher risk than Black people.

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