Cutaneous lymphoid hyperplasia (CLH) is a disorder characterized by the development of one or more skin lesions containing dense lymphoid infiltrates that exhibit the histopathologic features of a benign, reactive process. Nevertheless, some cases have been associated with the subsequent development of clinically overt lymphomas. This suggests that monoclonal populations may exist in some cases of CLH and that these cases may represent a subset more likely to evolve into lymphoma. To determine if such a subset of CLH can be distinguished, Southern blot analysis of DNA was used to study the immunogenotypic features of lesions from 14 patients with clinical, histopathologic, and immunopathologic findings characteristic of CLH. Five cases exhibited detectable clonal rearrangements of immunoglobulin genes. Furthermore, one of these five cases evolved into overt diffuse large cell lymphoma of B cell lineage during a 2-year follow-up of recurrent disease at the original cutaneous site. The immunoglobulin gene rearrangements of this lymphoma were identical to those of the prior CLH lesion. There was no evidence of detectable t(14;18) chromosomal translocations or clonal rearrangements of the beta gene of the T cell receptor in any case. It was concluded that CLH can be divided into two subsets based on the presence or absence of a clonal B cell population, and that overt lymphoma can arise from the former subset and contain the same B cell clone identified in the pre-existent CLH lesion.