Immunosuppression and melanocyte proliferation

Melanoma Res. 2009 Apr;19(2):63-8. doi: 10.1097/CMR.0b013e328322fc20.


Melanocytes are pigmented cells derived from the neural crest; their proliferation is restrained by immune system. The eruption of nevi after an immunosuppressive condition is a peculiar phenomenon indicating that the immune system may play a major role in limiting proliferation of melanocytes. In this review, we analyze the role of immunosuppressive regimens on melanocyte proliferation. In particular, we discuss the eruptive nevi phenomenon, which is determined by the inability of the immune system to inhibit melanocyte proliferation. These clinical observations indicate that the immune system has a pivotal role in restraining melanocyte proliferation. However, although the role of the immune system in the development of nonmelanoma skin cancer has been shown clearly in several studies involving organ transplant patients, the role of immunosuppression in melanoma genesis has not yet been established. Further investigations are required to establish the real immunogenicity of melanoma, particularly in the light of the dichotomy between the eruptive nevi phenomenon in immunosuppressed patients and the low incidence of melanoma in transplanted patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / immunology
  • Cytokines / physiology
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Humans
  • Immunocompromised Host
  • Immunosuppression Therapy / adverse effects*
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / adverse effects
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / pharmacology
  • Melanocyte-Stimulating Hormones / physiology
  • Melanocytes / cytology*
  • Melanocytes / drug effects
  • Melanocytes / immunology
  • Melanoma / etiology
  • Melanoma / immunology
  • Neural Crest / cytology
  • Nevus, Pigmented / chemically induced
  • Nevus, Pigmented / etiology
  • Nevus, Pigmented / immunology
  • Nevus, Pigmented / pathology
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology
  • Postoperative Complications / immunology
  • Transplantation
  • Vitiligo / drug therapy
  • Vitiligo / physiopathology


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Cytokines
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Melanocyte-Stimulating Hormones