Although a number of studies have indicated correlations between histologic subtypes of tumors and certain nonrandom chromosome changes, cytogenetic studies of lymphoma are in an early stage compared to those of leukemia. No comprehensive analysis of available data has so far been attempted in the literature either. Here we present an analysis of chromosome changes and their correlation with subtypes of lymphoma studied by conventional histology and cell surface markers, as observed in two sets of data: (1) a group of 65 karyotypically abnormal tumors sequentially ascertained and studied by us during the period January 1, 1984 to April 30, 1985, and (2) a larger data set derived by combining our data with those from two published series from the University of Minnesota that are comparable to our data. These combined data, which comprise the largest data set on the cytogenetics of lymphomas assembled so far, enabled a comprehensive analysis of correlation between chromosome change and tumor histology and the patterns of chromosome instability in these tumors. We found several significant associations, some previously described and others now recognized, between nonrandom chromosome gains, breaks, translocations, and deletions and histologic subtypes of tumors that characterize lymphomas. The data indicate that finding of chromosome breaks at certain sites (eg, 8q24, 14q32, 18q21) is of diagnostic value in dealing with cases of unusual lymphoma. Furthermore, nonrandom chromosome breakage exhibited three distinct patterns that reflected three levels of etiologically relevant genetic change.