Overexpression of hypoxia inducible factor (HIF)-1alpha has been found in several human cancers and is thought to correlate with aggressive disease and poor response. A retrospective analysis was carried out on 89 patients with primary cutaneous melanoma. HIF-1alpha expression was assessed by immunohistochemistry in formalin-fixed, paraffin wax-embedded tumour sections. Overall survival (OS) and disease-free survival (DFS) were determined using univariate and multivariate analyses. Of the 89 patients, 78 (87.6%) expressed HIF-1alpha, and the remaining 11 patients (12.4%) did not. HIF-1alpha expression correlated with age (P = 0.002), but not with the main predictive factors in melanoma. Survival analysis disclosed no difference between the groups for OS and DFS. In multivariate analysis, only Breslow Index and ulceration were significantly associated with poor OS. Our results indicate that HIF-1alpha overexpression is present in most primary melanomas, but is not associated with clinicopathological variables, patient prognosis or survival.