The etiology of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma remains unknown, although an association with viral infection, in particular certain retroviruses and human herpesviruses, has been suggested. The purpose of this study was to examine skin biopsies of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma for the presence of Epstein-Barr virus, herpes simplex virus type 1 and type 2, and human herpesvirus-6 by using the polymerase chain reaction. Lesional skin biopsies from 30 patients with cutaneous T-cell lymphoma were studied. Control specimens included biopsies from 9 patients with lymphomatoid papulosis and 10 patients with pityriasis lichenoides et varioliformis acuta. DNA extracted from each specimen, as well as from a known positive control for each virus, was examined by using the polymerase chain reaction with viral-specific primers. Each DNA specimen was also amplified with control primers for human beta globin. The specificity of the amplified products was confirmed by Southern analysis. Neither Epstein-Barr virus nor herpes simplex virus was detected in any of the patient specimens examined. Human herpesvirus-6 was detected in one specimen of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma and one specimen of lymphomatoid papulosis. These results do not support a role for any of these herpesviruses in the pathogenesis of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.