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The aim of this study was to determine whether epidermal hyperplasia overlying cutaneous human melanoma is associated with increased tumour angiogenesis, tumour growth and the potential for metastasis. Forty-two surgical specimens of cutaneous human melanoma of different depths, each containing epidermis present in the tumour-free margin, were analysed by immunohistochemistry for the expression of the pro-angiogenic molecules basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and interleukin-8 (IL-8) and the anti-angiogenic molecule interferon-β (IFN-β). The epidermis overlying intermediate and thick (1.0–10.0 mm), but not thin (0.5–1.0 mm), melanoma specimens was hyperplastic. Although the expression level of bFGF, VEGF and IL-8 in the epidermis directly overlying the tumour was similar to that in the distant epidermis, the expression of IFN-β was significantly decreased in keratinocytes overlying intermediate and thick, but not thin, melanomas. The microvessel density was also increased in intermediate and thick specimens. Human melanoma cells were injected subcutaneously into nude mice. The resulting tumours were used to determine the association between overlying epidermal hyperplasia and neoplastic angiogenesis. Similar to human autochthonous melanomas, epidermal hyperplasia was found only over lesions produced by metastatic cells. Although there was no change in the expression of the pro-angiogenic molecules, the expression of IFN-β was significantly decreased in the hyperplastic epidermis. Conditioned medium collected from cultures of the metastatic cell line induced in vitro proliferation of mouse keratinocytes, whereas conditioned medium collected from cultures of the non-metastatic cell line did not. Collectively, the data demonstrate that metastatic melanoma cells induce keratinocyte proliferation, leading to decreased expression of the negative regulator of angiogenesis, IFN-β, and hence to increased angiogenesis.