Non-Hodgkin's lymphomas (NHLs) are a group of clinically important neoplasms with a complex biology that makes their classification and treatment difficult. Their incidence is increasing and they cause significant morbidity and mortality. NHLs result from transformation of B and T/natural killer (NK) cells. Their genetic hallmark is chromosomal translocations resulting from aberrant rearrangements of IG and TCR genes, which lead to inappropriate expression of genes at reciprocal breakpoints that regulate a variety of cellular functions, including gene transcription, cell cycle, apoptosis, and tumor progression. Cytogenetics followed by molecular genetic analysis of some of the recurring translocations continues to provide new insights into lymphomagenesis and cell biology. More recently, chromosomal and gene amplification and gene deletion have been recognized as frequent genetic changes that may play a role in lymphoma progression and clinical behavior. In this review, cytogenetic data pertaining to recurring chromosomal changes on lymphomas are reviewed and examined in relation to their relevance to lymphoma development, classification, and clinical behavior. (C) 2000 by W.B. Saunders Company.