The genetic background of extranodal marginal zone B-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) of mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) type is poorly understood. In contrast to most entities of primary nodal lymphomas, few cytogenetic data are available, and gene rearrangements frequently encountered in and highly characteristic of certain entities of systemic NHL are absent in this type of lymphoma. Recently, it was suggested that MALT-type NHLs are associated with certain numerical chromosome aberrations and especially with trisomy 3. We performed an extensive study using a sensitive double (bicolor) fluorescence in situ hybridization technique for the analysis of trisomies for chromosomes 3, 7, 12, and 18 in 60 samples of low-grade and 45 high-grade MALT-type tumors. In the low-grade cases, trisomy 3 was found in a frequency of only 20%. High-grade lymphomas of MALT type were associated with trisomies 3, 7, 12, and 18 in 36, 20, 18, and 13% of the cases, respectively. Whereas no difference was encountered for trisomy 3 in primary and secondary/simultaneous high-grade lymphomas, +7 and +12 were associated with primary lymphomas, and a +18 was predominantly found in secondary/simultaneous high-grade NHL. These results challenge earlier reports describing a high frequency of +3 in low-grade MALT-type NHL and indicate a possibly different genetic evolution pattern of primary and secondary/simultaneous high-grade lymphomas of primary mucosal origin.