A Systematic Approach to the Cutaneous Lymphoid Infiltrates: A Clinical, Morphologic, and Immunophenotypic Evaluation

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Archives of pathology & laboratory medicine


CONTEXT: The evaluation of cutaneous lymphoid infiltrates, both neoplastic and inflammatory, occurs very frequently in routine dermatopathologic examination and consultation practices. The "tough" cutaneous lymphoid infiltrate is feared by many pathologists; skin biopsies are relatively small, whereas diagnostic possibilities are relatively broad. It is true that cutaneous lymphomas can be difficult to diagnose and that in many circumstances multiple biopsies are required to establish a correct diagnostic interpretation. As a reminder, one should understand that low-grade cutaneous lymphomas are indolent disorders that usually linger for decades and that therapy does not result in disease cure. It is also important to remember that in most circumstances, those patients will die from another process that is completely unrelated to a diagnosis of skin lymphoma (even in the absence of specific therapy).

OBJECTIVE: To use a clinicopathologic, immunophenotypic, and molecular approach in the evaluation of common lymphocytic infiltrates.

DATA SOURCES: An in-depth analysis of updated literature in the field of cutaneous lymphomas was done, with particular emphasis on updated terminology from the most recent World Health Organization classification of skin and hematologic tumors.

CONCLUSIONS: A diagnosis of cutaneous lymphoid infiltrates can be adequately approached using a systematic scheme following the proposed ABCDE system. Overall, cutaneous T- and B-cell lymphomas are rare and "reactive" infiltrates are more common. Evaluation of lymphoid proliferations should start with a good sense of knowledge of the clinical presentation of the lesions, the clinical differential considerations, and a conscientious and appropriate use of immunohistochemistry and molecular tools.

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