Estrogen Receptor Expression in Cutaneous Melanoma: A Real-Time Reverse Transcriptase–Polymerase Chain Reaction and Immunohistochemical Study

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To evaluate estrogen receptor (ER) expression in human melanoma tissues and in the adjacent healthy skin with the aim of explaining whether the ERα:ERβ expression ratio has a role in neoplastic progression.


Prospective study.


Department of Dermatology, University of Florence, Florence, Italy.


Fourteen patients, 12 with cutaneous melanoma (6 women and 6 men) and 2 with melanocytic nevi (1 woman and 1 man).

Main Outcome Measures:

Using quantitative reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction and immunohistochemical analysis, we analyzed ERα and ERβ messenger RNA (mRNA) and ERβ protein expression in cutaneous melanoma and in the healthy skin surrounding the lesions.


All melanocytic lesions expressed detectable levels of ERα and ERβ mRNA as well as ERβ protein. Dividing melanoma cases into 2 groups according to Breslow thickness, we found lower ERα and ERβ mRNA levels and lower ERβ protein levels in thicker, more invasive tumors.


These observations suggest a role for ERs in the metastatic process of melanoma cells, pointing at the possibility of using ERβ expression as a prognostic indicator of melanoma. The possibility of distinguishing proliferative melanomas, which are associated with dismal prognosis, from the so-called dormant melanomas opens up novel avenues in tailoring individual treatments, as already happens for other tumors.

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