PURPOSE: Population-based analyses of the incidence of skin lymphoma in Europe are very sparse. We analyzed German population-based incidence data on skin lymphoma to study the descriptive epidemiology of these tumors. METHODS: We extracted skin lymphoma cases from the registry files of the East German National Cancer Registry (1976-1989) and registries of three new federal states (1998-2002) (Sachsen, Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern), the Cancer Registry Schleswig-Holstein, Lübeck (1998-2002), and the Epidemiological Cancer Registry Münster (1998-2002). We calculated age-standardized incidence rates (world standard population) and compared these figures with international data. RESULTS: From 1976 through 1989, 619 cases of skin lymphoma were registered in the former German Democratic Republic. During this period, the incidence among men increased from 2.0 to 2.5 per million and decreased among women from 1.5 to 0.8 per million. Current age-standardized incidence rates of skin lymphoma (1998-2002) varied by sex and registry and were about 3.2-6.0 per million among men and 1.6-2.6 per million among women. CONCLUSIONS: The current incidence rates among the registries of Germany are fairly similar but are considerably lower than incidence rates from the United States and Israel. Several methodological issues hamper the analysis of population-based incidence data of skin lymphoma.