Estrogen receptor expression in cutaneous melanoma: a real-time reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction and immunohistochemical study

Arch Dermatol. 2009 Jan;145(1):30-6. doi: 10.1001/archdermatol.2008.537.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Estrogen Receptor alpha / metabolism*
  • Estrogen Receptor beta / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Melanoma / metabolism*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nevus, Pigmented / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Skin / metabolism
  • Skin Neoplasms / metabolism*


  • Estrogen Receptor alpha
  • Estrogen Receptor beta
  • RNA, Messenger