The expression pattern of epithelial (E)- and placental (P)-calcium-dependent cell-cell adhesion molecules was examined immunohistochemically in various skin tumors. E- and P-cadherin expression was preserved in nodular and superficial types of basal cell carcinoma (BCC). In well-differentiated squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), E-cadherin on the cell surface of the tumor was reduced but expression of P-cadherin was preserved more frequently at the peripheral sites of the tumor than in the central sites of the tumor. Paget's cells and melanoma cells did not express E- or P-cadherins in the nest of the epidermis. Immunoreactive E-cadherin levels in sera were significantly elevated in patients with invasive Paget's disease, metastatic malignant melanoma and severe types of psoriasis and atopic dermatitis when compared with those of normal controls. Reduced or loss of cadherin in localized tumor cells may be correlated with the proliferation, and the level of soluble E-cadherin in circulation may be a marker in the extent of damaged skin by tumor and/or inflammation.