Several studies have noted elevated hepatitis C virus (HCV) prevalence among patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), suggesting that HCV infection increases NHL risk through chronic immune stimulation. Population-based data from the U.S. are lacking. In a population-based case-control study of NHL in the United States, we identified HCV infection using an enzyme immunoassay, confirmed by recombinant immunoblot assay or HCV RNA detection. The association between HCV and NHL was assessed using logistic regression, adjusting for demographic factors, illicit drug use or medical history. Thirty-two of 813 (3.9%) NHL cases and 14 of 684 (2.1%) controls were HCV-infected [odds ratio (OR) 1.96, 95%CI 1.07–4.03]. For separate NHL subtypes, numbers were limited. Nonetheless, positive associations were noted for follicular (OR 2.46, 95%CI 1.01–5.81), marginal zone (3.99, 0–13.6) and mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (2.04, 0–7.20) NHLs. For all NHLs combined, the HCV-NHL association changed little after adjustment for sex, age, race and study center (OR 1.89, 95%CI 1.00–4.00). HCV was common in controls who had injected drugs (40%) or used other illicit drugs (6.5%), but adjustment for drug use did not affect the HCV-NHL association (OR 1.87, 95%CI 0.95–4.10). Transfusion history was unrelated to HCV status, and adjustment for this exposure did not attenuate the HCV-NHL association (OR 2.15, 95%CI 1.12–4.76). Excluding 4 subjects with a history of hemodialysis or 3 subjects with organ transplants also did not affect the results. Our study demonstrates an association between HCV infection and NHL in the United States. HCV infection may be a cause of NHL. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.