Primary lymphomas of the central nervous system (CNS) account for 0.3% to 1.5% of all intracranial neoplasms. Several reports have noted a coincidence between this neoplasm and serologic evidence of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection, but in only a few instances has the EBV genome been demonstrated in these tumors. To further evaluate the frequency of this occurrence, we analyzed primary CNS lymphomas using nucleic acid hybridization methods and the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). In situ hybridization was used in selected cases. Sequences of EBV were found in two of nine cases by PCR and in situ hybridization. Southern blot hybridization of genomic DNA from these samples was negative for EBV. Both tumors arose in patients with conditions shown to produce secondary immunodeficiency, namely, chronic alcohol abuse and diabetes mellitus. We conclude that the association of EBV and CNS lymphoma is not restricted to patients with severe primary immune deficiency, and that PCR can be applied successfully to paraffin-embedded tissue for the detection of low-abundance viral sequences.