Accumulated evidence has shown the importance of Epstein-Barr virus in the pathogenesis of various lymphomas. This study aimed to determine the prevalence of Epstein-Barr virus expression and its effect on survival amongst diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) cases from two large tertiary care centres in Turkey with a particular interest in identifying cases of 'Epstein-Barr virus-positive DLBCL of the elderly'. Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma cases diagnosed between 1999 and 2009 were retrieved and 340 cases were used to construct tissue microarrays. The presence of Epstein-Barr virus small ribonucleic acids was examined by in situ hybridization using Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-encoded small RNA (EBER) oligonucleotides. A total of 18 cases (5.3%) showed Epstein-Barr virus expression. Twelve cases were classified as Epstein-Barr virus-positive DLBCL of the elderly. Epstein-Barr virus-positive DLBCL cases showed a significantly inferior overall survival as compared with Epstein-Barr virus-negative cases (p < 0.001). In our study group Epstein-Barr virus expression is not prevalent in DLBCLs. Epstein-Barr virus-positive DLBCL of the elderly is also rare in the Turkish population. The presence of Epstein-Barr virus, however, is associated with poor prognosis.