AIMS--To evaluate further the relation between gastric malignant lymphoma of the mucosa associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) and Helicobacter pylori. METHODS--One hundred and sixty two surgical specimens of MALT lymphoma were retrospectively investigated to determine tumour type and inflammatory patterns. In 121 cases biopsy specimens obtained before surgery were available and stained with haematoxylin and eosin, periodic acid Schiff, Giemsa and Warthin-Starry stains. RESULTS--Residual lymphoid follicles were found less often in high grade malignant than in low grade malignant MALT lymphomas. Chronic active gastritis was shown within the mucosa at some distance from the tumours in 143 of 146 specimens. In all the cases for which biopsy specimens could be evaluated, colonisation of the mucosa by H pylori had occurred. Lymphoid follicles and lymphoid aggregates were detected in 82.7% of the antral, and in 85% of the body mucosa specimens. CONCLUSIONS--These data support the hypothesis that H pylori has an important role in the development of MALT lymphomas. Furthermore, the chronic inflammation preceding malignant transformation might enhance the probability of malignant transformation via chronic stimulation of the lymphoid tissue. This might in part indicate why MALT lymphomas occur most often in the stomach.