AIMS--To assess the relative frequency of mitotic and apoptotic cells in malignant melanoma and basal cell carcinoma. METHODS--Retrospective evaluation of haematoxylin and eosin stained slides from 10 basal cell carcinomas, 10 nodular melanomas, and 10 superficial spreading melanomas, with counting of apoptotic and mitotic cells per 1000 cells. Selected cases were studied with in situ end-labelling. RESULTS--The ratio of apoptotic to mitotic cells was higher in basal cell carcinoma than in either form of melanoma because of the presence of a greater number of apoptotic cells in basal cell carcinoma. CONCLUSION--The differing growth rates and biological behaviour of these two tumours is reflected in the apoptotic:mitotic ratio. Further assessment of this ratio is warranted, both between tumour types and between individual tumours of one type, to determine its value as an indicator of biological potential.
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