Cyclooxygenase 2 (COX-2) is an inducible enzyme involved in the production of prostaglandins and thromboxanes during inflammation. There are now several lines of evidence indicating that increased expression of COX-2 plays a functional role in the development and progression of malignant epithelial cancers. However, there is only limited data regarding the role of COX-2 in melanoma pathogenesis. In the present work, we retrospectively examined lesions through out the development of melanoma and metastatic disease (dysplastic nevi n = 10, melanoma in situ n = 4, stage II melanoma n = 10, stage III n = 4, stage IV n = 3, stage V n = 2, melanoma metastasis lymph nodes n = 13 metastasis to other sites n = 3). COX-2 was consistently observed in keratinocytes, dermal fibroblasts, and inflammatory cells in regions adjacent to benign evi and primary cutaneous melanomas. However, no COX-2 staining was detected in the nevi nor in the primary skin melanoma cells. In addition, COX-2 was undetected in all vertical and radial growth phase cases Interestingly, 13 out of 13 of the lymph node metastasis expressed extremely high levels of COX-2 in overlying epithelium and inflammatory cells, and COX-2 was strongly detected in the metastatic cancer cells per se. For additional information on the expression of COX-2 in malignant melanoma, we determined the expression of COX-2 protein in several different melanoma cell lines. We found that 3We found that 5 out of 7 of the melanoma cells over expressed COX-2 compared to normal melanocytes. Collectively, these data suggest that COX-2 may play a functional role in metastases of melanoma, and treatment with COX-2 inhibitors may be efficacious for malignant melanoma.