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According to novel investigations, actinic keratosis (AK) is not a premalignant lesion but is a malignant lesion in the evolution to invasive squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). Thus, we analyzed p53, bcl-2 and growth hormone receptor (GHR) expression in hypertrophic-type AK (HAK) to determine the relative importance of these protooncogenes in the biological behavior of HAK. Expression of p53, bcl-2 and GHR was determined by immunohistochemistry in 33 HAK specimens and surrounding perilesional normal skin (PNS). The relative proportions of immunoreactive cells were determined. Of the 33 HAK specimens, 30 (91%) showed immunopositive staining for p53, 33 (100%) for bcl-2, and 12 (36%) for GHR. Highly positive p53 expression in HAK lesions could indicate that p53 mutation is an early and crucial event in lesion development. The detected pattern of the p53/bcl-2 ratio in HAK suggests an important role for another gene: the proapoptotic gene bax. Our findings indicate that GHR expression could be a biological marker of progression of HAK to SCC.