The immune system recognizes diverse melanoma antigens. However, tumors can evade the immune response, therefore growing and progressing. It has been reported that galectin-3 and galectin-1 can induce apoptosis of activated lymphocytes. However, there is strong evidence indicating that the regulation of galectins function in the human tumor microenvironment is a complex process that is influenced by diverse biological circumstances. Here, we have investigated 33 biopsies (eight primary and 25 metastases) from 24 melanoma patients (15-72 years old) and describe the correlation between the expression of galectin-3 or galectin-1 and the level of apoptosis of tumor-associated lymphocytes using immunohistochemistry and an in situ nick translation assay. The range of galectin-3-positive tumor cells varied between 0% and 93% and that of galectin-1-positive tumor cells varied between 5% and 97%. In addition, 23 +/- 27% of tumor-associated lymphocytes were apoptotic. Although our results show a correlation between galectin-3 expression and apoptosis of tumor-associated lymphocytes, we could not find such correlation with galectin-1. Considering the complex process of cancer immunoediting, various interacting factors must be considered.