Substance P (SP) is a neuropeptide found in both the central and peripheral nervous system. In the skin, SP-containing neurons stimulate the release of histamine from connective tissue mast cells (MC). SP also can potentiate neoangiogenesis and induce dermal fibrosis. MC-derived histamine has potent vasoactive effects, is angiogenic, and promotes tissue fibroplasia. In addition to histamine, MC contain many other angiogenic factors and a variety of cytokines, growth factors, and proteolytic enzymes implicated in tissue remodeling, and normal as well as tumor-associated neoangiogenesis. Many MC-derived factors, including histamine, can enhance melanoma cell growth directly. MC often concentrate around cutaneous melanomas which also frequently are associated with angiogenesis and peritumoral fibrosis. The precise mediators of these responses have not been well defined. We evaluated by immunohistochemistry cutaneous lesions representing stages of progression of malignant melanoma and its precursor lesions for the expression of SP. SP was expressed in 17/25 (68%) primary invasive malignant melanomas, 2/5 (40%) metastatic melanomas, 6/10 (60%) melanomas in situ, 7/12 (58%) atypical (dysplastic) nevi, and 4/10 (40%) spindle and epithelioid cell (Spitz) nevi, but was not detected in any (0/11, 0%) acquired benign melanocytic nevi (p<0.05). Invasive melanomas were immunolabeled in both the intraepidermal and the dermal components of the lesions. For those atypical and Spitz nevi which expressed SP, most of the immunoreactive melanocytes were located at the dermal-epidermal junction overlying areas of papillary dermal fibrosis. The results show differential expression of SP among cutaneous melanocytic lesions and suggest that the expression of this neuropeptide together with other factors may contribute to some of the host responses associated with these lesions.