AIMS: To investigate the immunoreactivity of a range of melanocytic lesions, both benign and malignant, with the monoclonal antibody VS38. This was recently described as a marker of reactive/neoplastic plasma cells and, therefore, is useful in the diagnosis of plasmacytoma/myeloma and lymphomas with plasmacytic differentiation. This study was prompted by the recent observation that a plasmacytoid melanoma arising in the nasal cavity was strongly immunoreactive with VS38, which was therefore a potential source of major diagnostic error. METHODS: The Streptavidin-peroxidase complex technique was used on paraffin wax embedded sections of 167 melanocytic lesions. Diaminobenzidine (DAB) was used as chromogen for non-pigmented or lightly pigmented lesions and nickel/DAB for more heavily pigmented lesions. RESULTS: Positive immunostaining for VS38 was seen in 14.5% (10/69) of benign naevi (including 40% (four of 10) of Spitz naevi), 10.5% (two of 19) of dysplastic naevi/in situ melanomas, 92% (35/38) of primary cutaneous melanomas, 100% (four of four) of primary mucosal melanomas, 91.7% (33/36) of recurrent/metastatic melanomas, and 100% (one of one) of clear cell sarcomas of soft tissues. CONCLUSIONS: VS38 immunostaining is frequently positive in primary and recurrent/metastatic malignant melanoma and is also reactive less commonly with benign naevi. These results should be borne in mind when this recently described marker of normal/neoplastic plasma cells is used to identify tumour lineage, particularly in tumours arising at unusual sites, such as in the nasal cavity. The possibility of malignant melanoma should be actively considered and excluded in any undifferentiated tumour which shows VS38 immunoreactivity.