What Is Cutaneous B-Cell Lymphoma?

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  • Written By: H. Colledge
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 07 October 2019
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Cutaneous B-cell lymphoma is a form of cancer which develops from white blood cells called B lymphocytes. These cells are normally part of the lymphatic system, but cutaneous lymphomas are found in the skin, sometimes without any signs of malignancy in other parts of the body. When there are no other similar tumors in the body, a cutaneous B-cell lymphoma is described as primary. There are a number of different types of cutaneous B-cell lymphoma and, in most cases, the outlook for these cancers is positive, with treatment.

Primary cutaneous B-cell lymphoma represents up to around a quarter of all the lymphomas occurring in the skin. B lymphocytes are normally made in the bone marrow before entering the blood and lymphatic system. They produce antibodies which help defend the body against disease. Some B-cell lymphomas can develop inside lymph glands, or lymph nodes, in which case they are known as nodal lymphomas. A cutaneous B-cell lymphoma belongs to the group described as extranodal lymphomas, which occur outside the lymphatic system and lymph nodes.


There are four different classes of cutaneous B-cell lymphoma. Those which are known as primary cutaneous follicle center lymphoma typically appear as one or more slowly growing skin lumps, most often found on the head, neck or torso. Diagnosis usually involves taking a sample, or biopsy, of the tumor for analysis. Treatment could consist of radiotherapy, or chemotherapy if tumors are present on a number of different areas of the body. The outlook is normally favorable, with more than 95 percent of patients surviving for five years after diagnosis.

Primary cutaneous marginal zone B-cell lymphoma carries a similarly positive survival rate. This type of cutaneous B-cell lymphoma usually appears as a brown or red lump, which may be single or multiple. Treatment consists of surgical removal or radiotherapy, with chemotherapy used when tumors are found at numerous skin sites. Cutaneous diffuse large B-cell lymphoma has a poorer outlook than the other types as it has a tendency to spread to lymph nodes and other parts of the body. It appears as one or more skin lumps located in one area, often on the leg, and chemotherapy is the most common treatment.

Intravascular large B-cell lymphoma is the fourth type of cutaneous B-cell lymphoma. Its cancerous cells develop inside blood vessels in the skin and nervous system. Red, tender lumps and swollen blood vessels appear on the legs and torso. As the lymphoma cells may spread to involve other body organs, the prognosis is usually poor. Treatments may include surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.


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