Adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATL) is caused by the human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) which is endemic in countries of Caribbean and Central and South America. We performed a systematic search and review to identify publications on ATL in these countries to verify if this disease was getting recognition in these regions as well as the characteristics of the observed cases. The median age of 49.4 years was lower than that referred to in Japan. According to our findings in most Brazilian states and in some other countries, ATL is not being recognized and should be strongly considered in the differential diagnosis of T-cell leukemias/lymphomas. Failure to identify these cases may be due to the unsystematic realization of serology for HTLV-1 and phenotypic identification of non-Hodgkin lymphomas that may result from lack of resources. Detection of ATL cases has been more feasible with cooperation from foreign research centers. A huge effort should be made to improve the surveillance system for ATL diagnosis in most of the South- and Central-American and Caribbean countries, and this attitude should be embraced by public organs to support health professionals in this important task.