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A relatively uncommon form of cancer, cutaneous T-cell lymphoma affects certain white blood cells (T cells). A key component of the body’s immune system, T cells develop from stem cells in the bone marrow and are found in lymphatic tissues found throughout the body, such as in the tonsils, spleen, intestines and skin. These infection-fighting cells fend off disease by targeting and destroying harmful invaders, such as bacteria and viruses.

Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma occurs when T cells undergo mutations that cause them to grow and divide uncontrollably. The resulting abnormal T cells then build up and attack the skin, producing rash-like skin redness, slightly raised or scaly round skin patches and, in some cases, skin tumors. The malignancy is classified as a type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

What prompts abnormal cellular DNA changes?

Although research is ongoing, scientists in the general medical community have not yet determined why some T cells mutate or why the mutated T cells inadvertently attack the skin. Based on extensive studies, some experts believe that contributing factors may include:

  • Genetic and immunologic abnormalities
  • Environmental factors, such as exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, certain chemicals or ionizing radiation
  • Certain viral infections and bacterial skin infections
  • Lifestyle factors, such as poor nutrition or stress

As such, the abnormal genetic changes that lead to the development of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma may be inherited or they may occur spontaneously for reasons that are not yet well understood.

Connect with an expert at Moffitt Cancer Center

At Moffitt Cancer Center, we understand that the many unknowns surrounding the causes of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma can be disconcerting to a patient, and we’re here to provide the reliable information you need and deserve. To request an appointment with a specialist in our Malignant Hematology Program, please call 1-888-663-3488 or complete our new patient registration form online. We provide every new patient with rapid access to a cancer expert as soon as possible, which is faster than any other cancer hospital in the nation.