Sima Rozati, MD, Assistant Professor of Dermatology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, discusses how cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL) affects African American subpopulations.

CTCL belongs to the non-Hodgkin lymphoma family as a rare group of malignancies. CTCL involves malignant T-cells migrating to, and collecting in, cutaneous tissue. This makes diagnosis challenging as the initial signs are skin-related and, therefore, overlap with many other dermatologic disorders. Additionally, CTCL variants present overlapping symptomatology, making it difficult to diagnose between CTCL subtypes. Hence, histopathologic features must be correlated with the clinical presentation to confirm diagnosis.

Clinical studies indicate that African American populations may be differentially susceptible to CTCL, particularly African American women. As Dr. Rozati explains, African American individuals with CTCL tend to be younger than the average population with this disease. Additionally, African American women are likely to have more aggressive forms of CTCL compared to the average CTCL patient. For this reason, Dr. Rozati urges physicians such as dermatologists to monitor African American women more closely and keep CTCL in the back of their minds. 

Dr. Rozati also points out that the typical signs of CTCL – most notably the red, scaly rash that is commonly associated with the disease – may not be noticeable on darker skin tones or may not appear at all in African American patients. This is particularly true if these patients have erythroderma where almost their entire body’s surface is inflamed. 

To learn more about CTCL, visit our CTCL Learning Page.