Mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) lymphoma is a heterogeneous form of a B-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma with extranodal location. The gastrointestinal tract is the most common site of disease, but involvement of multiple other organ systems has been documented. Four translocations, t(11;18)(q21;q21), t(1;14)(p22;q32), t(14;18)(q32;q21) and t(3;14)(p13;q32), are specifically associated with MALT lymphoma. Remarkably, the genes targeted by at least three of these translocations are involved in one and the same pathway, leading to the activation of nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB). This review presents MALT lymphoma as a model of how sustained inflammation increases the risk of genotoxic insults and how these genetic events initiate oncogenesis.