Numerous immunohistochemical stains have been employed to detect metastatic melanoma in sentinel lymph node (SLN) biopsies. HMB-45 is considered by some as a specific tool to detect early metastatic melanoma (1). Occasionally, one or two isolated HMB-45-positive cells may cause complications in diagnostic interpretation. The goal of this study was to evaluate the reliability of HMB-45 staining of SLNs with sparse isolated positive cells and to compare its staining with anti-Melan A antibody. HMB-45 and anti-Melan A antibody immunostaining was performed on (Group A) 15 histologically negative SLNs excised from patients with malignant melanoma (MM) and on (Group B) 15 histologically negative SLNs excised from patients with breast carcinoma (BC). None of the patients had clinical evidence of systemic metastasis at the time of SLN biopsy. Five cutaneous biopsies with changes of postinflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIHP) were also stained with both antibodies. HMB-45 staining was repeated in all Group B SLNs after blocking endogenous biotins. Electron-microscopic studies were performed on all cases of PIHP. Isolated HMB-45-stained cells were present in 6 of 15 SLNs removed for MM; 8 of 15 for BC; and 3 of 5 cutaneous biopsies of PIHP. HMB-45 reactivity persisted after blocking endogenous biotins in 6 of 8 positive SLNs from Group B. Anti-Melan A antibody was negative in all SLNs of group A and B and in dermal melanophages of all five cases of PIHP. HMB-45 positivity was demonstrated in histologically negative SLNs and cutaneous biopsies, especially in the milieu of aggregated melanophages. Phagocytosis of premelanosomes by macrophages in the draining lymph nodes may account for isolated cell positivity and can hinder correct diagnostic interpretation. HMB-45 may not be a reliable marker for the detection of micro-metastasis of MM and requires correlation with other immunohistochemical markers, such as anti-Melan A antibody, to enhance specificity.