The present study analysed by immunohistochemistry the protein level of cyclin A and Ki-67 in a panel of paraffin-embedded tissue obtained from 172 primary (110 superficial and 62 nodular) and 73 metastatic melanomas, and ten benign naevi. Since cyclin A exists in the same quaternary complex in the S-phase of the cell cycle as the cdk inhibitor p21WAF1/CIP1, the levels of the two proteins were compared. Cyclin A and Ki-67 were heterogeneously expressed in the malignant tumours, whereas in benign naevi, only rare positive cells were detected. In superficial spreading melanomas, the cyclin A level was related to tumour thickness, with less expression in thinner lesions (p<0.00001), and to Ki-67 (p<0.00001) and p21WAF1/CIP1 (p=0.01) scores. Multivariate analysis showed that in addition to the depth of the primary tumour, the protein level of cyclin A was an independent indicator of relapse-free period (thickness, p<0.00001; cyclin A, p=0.0003). In contrast, in nodular melanoma, the cyclin A level was associated with Ki-67 expression, but neither cyclin A nor Ki-67 was related to tumour thickness (cyclin A, p=0.06; Ki-67, p=0.61) and neither had any impact on relapse-free (cyclin A, p=0.64; Ki-67, p=0.32) or overall (cyclinA, p=0.94; Ki-67, p=0.45) survival. In conclusion, the results indicate that cyclin A is a strong prognostic factor for patients with superficial spreading melanomas. In nodular melanomas, the proliferation rate seems to have little impact on disease progression. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.