Follicular lymphoma and marginal zone lymphoma: how many diseases?

Virchows Arch. 2023 Jan;482(1):149-162. doi: 10.1007/s00428-022-03432-2. Epub 2022 Nov 17.


Follicular lymphoma (FL) and marginal zone lymphoma (MZL) are indolent mature B-cell neoplasms with variable clinical presentation and distinct histopathologic features. Recent advances in the biology and molecular characteristics of these lymphomas have further expanded our understanding of the heterogeneous nature of these lymphomas, with increasing recognition of specific disease entities within the broader categories of FL and MZL. Here, we discuss the conclusions of the 2022 International Consensus Classification of Mature Lymphoid Neoplasms (2022 ICC) dealing with FL, and review differences with the proposed WHO 5th Edition classification. We review issues related to grading and alternative forms of FL especially those lacking the genetic hallmark of FL, the t(14;18) chromosomal alteration. Among them, t(14;18)-negative CD23+ follicle center lymphoma has been proposed by the 2022 ICC as a provisional entity. Other follicle center-derived lymphomas such as pediatric-type follicular lymphoma, testicular follicular lymphoma, primary cutaneous follicle center lymphoma, and large B-cell lymphoma with IRF4 rearrangement are considered distinct entities separate from conventional FL. Importantly, large B-cell lymphoma with IRF4 rearrangement introduced as a provisional entity in the WHO 2017 is upgraded to a definite entity in the 2022 ICC. We also discuss diagnostic strategies for recognition of MZLs including splenic MZL, extranodal MZL (MALT lymphoma), and primary nodal MZL. The importance of molecular studies in the distinction among marginal zone lymphoma subtypes is emphasized, as well as their value in the differential diagnosis with other B-cell lymphomas.

Keywords: 2022 ICC; 5th WHO; Classification; Follicular lymphoma; Marginal zone lymphoma; Morphological variants and distinct entities.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Humans
  • Interferon Regulatory Factors
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell*
  • Lymphoma, B-Cell, Marginal Zone* / diagnosis
  • Lymphoma, B-Cell, Marginal Zone* / genetics
  • Lymphoma, B-Cell, Marginal Zone* / pathology
  • Lymphoma, Follicular* / diagnosis
  • Lymphoma, Follicular* / genetics
  • Lymphoma, Follicular* / pathology
  • Lymphoma, Large B-Cell, Diffuse*


  • Interferon Regulatory Factors