S100 expression in cutaneous scars: a potential diagnostic pitfall in the diagnosis of desmoplastic melanoma

Histopathology. 2001 Feb;38(2):135-40. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2559.2001.01066.x.


Aims: The histological distinction of desmoplastic melanoma from cutaneous scar tissue, particularly in the context of re-excision specimens or possible recurrence, may be very difficult. Immunostaining for S100 protein is often used to discriminate although there are little data on S100 expression in scar tissue. The aim of this study was to assess whether S100-positive cells are present in dermal scars and, if so, their extent, distribution and nature.

Methods and results: Twenty-two re-excision specimens of previously biopsied nonmelanocytic skin lesions were reviewed. Formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded sections containing dermal scars were stained by a standard ABC immunoperoxidase technique for S100 protein, CD1a and neurofilaments. The distribution and morphology of positive cells within the dermal scar tissue were documented. Cells expressing S100 protein were identified within the scars of 21 of the 22 cases. The number of S100-positive cells varied between cases but in four specimens was substantial. They displayed a variety of morphological appearances but the majority were spindle-shaped. A few showed mild cytological atypia. It is suggested that the majority represent Schwann cells with a minority of Langerhans cells and cells of uncertain lineage.

Conclusion: S100-positive cells, including spindle cells showing mild atypia, are found in cutaneous scars. S100 staining of re-excision specimens or putative recurrences of desmoplastic melanoma should be interpreted with caution.

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, CD1 / metabolism
  • Biomarkers, Tumor*
  • Cicatrix / diagnosis*
  • Cicatrix / metabolism
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique, Indirect
  • Humans
  • Melanoma / diagnosis*
  • Melanoma / metabolism
  • Neoplasm Proteins*
  • Neurofilament Proteins / metabolism
  • S100 Proteins*
  • Skin Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Skin Neoplasms / metabolism


  • Antigens, CD1
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • CD1a antigen
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Neurofilament Proteins
  • S100 Proteins