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Histopathology. 1991 Mar;18(3):237-41.

Melanocytes in the anal canal epithelium.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Odense University Hospital, Denmark.


We studied the presence of melanocytes in the various epithelial zones of the anal canal, using a recently introduced melanocyte-specific antibody (HMB-45) together with antibody to S-100 protein. In normal and canals and in haemorrhoids, melanocytes, defined as intraepithelial HMB-45/S-100 positive cells, were frequently demonstrated in the anal squamous zone, only sporadically in the anal transitional zone, and not at all in the colorectal zone. In the epithelium surrounding, but clearly separated from, resected primary anal malignant melanomas, increased numbers of benign melanocytes were demonstrated in the squamous zone and transitional zone, but also in the colorectal zone. We interpret this finding as a tumour-induced proliferation of benign melanocytes normally present, but in very small numbers or in some way 'masked', in the epithelium of the upper anal canal. The demonstration of melanocytes in all three zones of the anal canal substantially supports the observation that malignant melanoma of the anal canal may originate not only below but also above the dentate line.

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