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Hum Pathol. 1994 Jan;25(1):36-41.

Estrogen and progesterone receptor analysis in pregnancy-associated melanoma: absence of immunohistochemically detectable hormone receptors.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston 02114.


The role of estrogen in the initiation and progression of melanoma remains unclear. Some findings that suggest a hormonal role in melanoma initiation or progression include the following: (1) melanomas arising during pregnancy are thicker than those in nonpregnant women, (2) pregnant women with stage II (regional nodal metastases) melanoma have a worse prognosis than nonpregnant women of similar stage, and (3) melanoma is rare prior to puberty. Although biochemical assays have shown that estrogen-binding proteins are present in malignant melanoma, studies using a sensitive and more specific immunohistochemical technique have not found estrogen receptors (ERs) in melanoma. In our laboratory an immunohistochemical technique using monoclonal antibody H222 can detect ER in tumors with receptor levels lower than 9 fmol/mg protein and detects ER in a variety of tissues and species. In addition, monoclonal antibody KD68 is used to detect progesterone receptors immunohistochemically. We studied 14 cases of pregnancy-associated melanoma. None of our cases, ranging from melanoma in situ to metastatic melanoma, showed positive nuclear staining for ER, nor did any of these cases show positive immunohistochemical staining for progesterone receptor. Despite the wide tissue and species distribution of ER detected by the monoclonal antibody H222, this immunohistochemical technique does not appear to be useful in the study of possible hormonal effects on the progression of malignant melanoma. The estrogen-binding proteins in melanoma detected by biochemical techniques in previous studies probably are distinct from the well-defined human ER.

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