Lymphoma of the breast. A clinicopathologic study of primary and secondary cases

Arch Pathol Lab Med. 1999 Dec;123(12):1208-18. doi: 10.5858/1999-123-1208-LOTB.


Background: Primary lymphomas of the breast are rare, accounting for 1.7% to 2.2% of extranodal lymphomas and 0.38% to 0.7% of all non-Hodgkin lymphomas. Although secondary breast lymphomas are also rare, they represent the largest group of metastatic tumors of the breast.

Objectives: To investigate the clinicopathologic and immunophenotypic characteristics of breast lymphomas, the relative frequency of primary and secondary mammary lymphomas, and in selected cases, the role of gene rearrangement analysis in diagnosis and staging of these lymphomas.

Results: We conducted a retrospective review of 22 cases of breast lymphoma diagnosed at William Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, Mich, during a 30-year period (1963-1994). Eleven of the 22 cases fulfilled the criteria for primary breast lymphoma; these cases represented 0.6% of all non-Hodgkin lymphomas seen in our hospital. Of the 11 cases, 5 were diffuse large B-cell lymphomas, 2 were follicle center lymphomas, 2 were marginal zone B-cell lymphomas (mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue type), 1 was a lymphoplasmacytoid lymphoma, and 1 was a peripheral B-cell neoplasm, unclassified. Using a panel of immunohistochemical stains (CD45RO, CD45RA, CD43, CD3, CD20, CD30, CD68, and HLA-DR), 8 cases demonstrated unequivocal B-cell phenotype and 3 cases had equivocal or weak staining patterns for B-cell markers. We identified no cases of T-cell lymphoma. Of 7 cases that had bone marrow biopsies for staging, 3 were positive morphologically for bone marrow involvement. Molecular analysis of B- and T-cell gene rearrangement was used to exclude bone marrow involvement in one case with bone marrow lymphoid aggregates and to confirm negativity in a case that was morphologically negative. Of the 11 secondary breast lymphomas, 5 were diffuse large B-cell lymphomas; 1 was diffuse large B-cell, primary mediastinal subtype; and 5 were follicle center lymphomas.

Conclusions: Breast lymphomas represented 1.2% of all non-Hodgkin lymphomas in this study; the frequency of primary and secondary cases was equal. In both groups, right breast lesions were predominant, and the most frequent morphologic type was diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. Gene rearrangement analysis is helpful in selected cases to rule out bone marrow involvement, especially in older patients, in whom lymphoid aggregates are common.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Bone Marrow / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Female
  • Gene Rearrangement
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry / methods
  • Incidence
  • Lymphatic Metastasis / genetics
  • Lymphatic Metastasis / pathology*
  • Lymphoma / epidemiology
  • Lymphoma / genetics
  • Lymphoma / metabolism
  • Lymphoma / pathology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging / methods
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Staining and Labeling


  • Biomarkers, Tumor