Abstract INTRODUCTION Immunity in cancer patients is modified both by the cancer itself and by oncospecific treatments. Whether a patient’s adaptive immunity is impaired depends on their levels of naive lymphocytes and other cell populations. During the COVID-19 pandemic, cancer patients are at greater risk of progressing to severe forms of the disease and have higher mortality rates than individuals without cancer, particularly while they are receiving cancer-specific therapies. An individual’s protection against infection, their response to vaccines, and even the tests that determine the humoral immune response to SARS-CoV-2, depend on lymphocyte populations, meriting their study. OBJECTIVE Estimate blood concentrations of lymphocytes involved in the immune response to new pathogens in cancer patients. METHODS We carried out an analytical study of 218 cancer patients; 124 women and 94 men, 26–93 years of age, who were treated at the National Oncology and Radiobiology Institute in Havana, Cuba, March–June, 2020. Patients were divided into five groups: (1) those with controlled disease who were not undergoing cancer-specific treatment; (2) those undergoing debulking surgery; (3) patients undergoing chemotherapy; (4) patients undergoing radiation therapy and (5) patients currently battling infection. We evaluated the following peripheral blood lymphocyte subsets via flow cytometry: B lymphocytes (total, naive, transitional, memory, plasmablasts and plasma cells); T lymphocytes (total, helper, cytotoxic and their respective naive, activated, central memory and effector memory subsets); and total, secretory and cytotoxic natural killer cells and T natural killer cells. We also estimated neutrophil/lymphocyte ratios. Lymphocyte concentrations were associated with controlled disease and standard cancer therapy. For variables that did not fall within a normal distribution, ranges were set by medians and 2.5–97.5 percentiles. The two-tailed Mann–Whitney U test was used to measure the effect of sex and to compare lymphocyte populations. We calculated odds ratios to estimate lymphopenia risk. RESULTS All cancer patients had lower values of naive helper and cytotoxic T lymphocyte populations, naive B lymphocytes, and natural killer cells than normal reference medians. Naive helper T cells were the most affected subpopulation. Memory B cells, plasmablasts, plasma cells, activated T helper cells, and cytotoxic central memory T cells were increased. Patients undergoing treatment had lower levels of naive lymphocytes than untreated patients, particularly during radiation therapy. The risk of B lymphopenia was higher in patients in treatment. The odds ratio for B lymphopenia was 8.0 in patients who underwent surgery, 12.9 in those undergoing chemotherapy, and 13.9 in patients in radiotherapy. CONCLUSIONS Cancer and conventional cancer therapies significantly affect peripheral blood B lymphocyte levels, particularly transitional T helper lymphocytes, reducing the immune system’s ability to trigger primary immune responses against new antigens.