Cutaneous Lymphoma

Cutaneous lymphoma is the term used to describe lymphomas of the skin. Cutaneous lymphomas are rare. Lymphoma is a type of cancer that originates in lymphocytes, a type of white blood whose role is to direct other white blood cells to fight infection.

There are two types of cutaneous lymphoma: cutaneous T-cell lymphoma and cutaneous B-cell lymphoma.


Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL) is caused by a mutation in T cells that normally function as part of the skin’s immune system. Oftentimes, CTCL begins as a pink scaly rash occurring in clothing covered areas of the body. If left untreated CTCL can grow into large tumors on the skin.

Mycosis fungoides is the earliest stage of disease where plaques are limited to the skin. This is the most common type of CTCL. When tumor growth occurs, it is more common for CTCL to spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body.
There is no cure for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma but there are several treatment options to limit spread of the disease within the body and improve a person’s quality of life. Treatments can range from steroids and other oral medications, to phototherapy, photopheresis, and radiation therapy depending on the severity of the disease.


Cutaneous B-Cell lymphoma is less common than T-cell lymphoma. About 20 percent of people diagnosed with cutaneous lymphoma have this type. B-cell lymphoma presents on the skin typically as a cluster of tumors or nodules. They can be red or bluish-red and most often appear on the head, neck, back, abdomen or legs. These tumors, although slow to grow, can rarely spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body.

The cause of cutaneous B-cell lymphoma is unknown but may be related to the carriage of cancerous viruses. Early diagnosis is important for appropriate and effective therapy. B-cell lymphoma can be treated with surgery, radiotherapy, or chemotherapy, depending upon the extent of disease.

For more information on cutaneous lymphoma, please visit the Cutaneous Lymphoma Foundation.