Objective: To evaluate estrogen receptor (ER) expression in human melanoma tissues and in the adjacent healthy skin with the aim of explaining whether the ERalpha:ERbeta expression ratio has a role in neoplastic progression.
Design: Prospective study.
Setting: Department of Dermatology, University of Florence, Florence, Italy. Patients Fourteen patients, 12 with cutaneous melanoma (6 women and 6 men) and 2 with melanocytic nevi (1 woman and 1 man).
Main outcome measures: Using quantitative reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction and immunohistochemical analysis, we analyzed ERalpha and ERbeta messenger RNA (mRNA) and ERbeta protein expression in cutaneous melanoma and in the healthy skin surrounding the lesions.
Results: All melanocytic lesions expressed detectable levels of ERalpha and ERbeta mRNA as well as ERbeta protein. Dividing melanoma cases into 2 groups according to Breslow thickness, we found lower ERalpha and ERbeta mRNA levels and lower ERbeta protein levels in thicker, more invasive tumors.
Conclusions: These observations suggest a role for ERs in the metastatic process of melanoma cells, pointing at the possibility of using ERbeta expression as a prognostic indicator of melanoma. The possibility of distinguishing proliferative melanomas, which are associated with dismal prognosis, from the so-called dormant melanomas opens up novel avenues in tailoring individual treatments, as already happens for other tumors.