An Animal Model for Human Melanoma


*Queensland Institute of Medical Research, PO Royal Brisbane Hospital, Queensland 4029, Australia. Fax: 61–7–3362 0111; e-mail:


Abstract— Experimental animal models that are directly relevant to human melanoma are lacking. We propose the Angora goat as a potentially useful field model with experimental potential and to this end have examined the prevalence and site distribution of all skin cancers in 28 Angora goat herds in Queensland, Australia. The prevalence of benign melanocytic lesions (lentigines) and their experimental induction by sunlight were also investigated. Among 1731 goats over 2 years of age, 139 malignant skin tumors were excised from 95 affected animals. The prevalence of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) was 3.8% and of melanoma, 2.2%. Main site of occurrence of melanoma (83%) was the dorsal surface of the ear; in contrast SCC occurred mostly (84%) on the perineum. Lentigines were darker and more prevalent on the exposed compared with the unexposed surface of the ear in Angoras, analogous to the higher prevalence of nevi on the exposed compared with the less exposed inner surface of the arm in humans. Lentigines, which were also found on the perineum though lighter in color than on the dorsal ear, were absent in young animals under 3 months but were numerous in 1–3 year olds. Furthermore in an experimental substudy eight goats, having one flank repeatedly shorn and the contralateral flank left unshorn, revealed consistently more solar lentigines on the shorn flank (P < 0.05) when both sides were examined after 9 months. Histopathological examination of paired skin biopsies from five of these goats also showed more abundant pigmentation in skin from the exposed, as compared with the unexposed flank. These findings indicate that sunlight induces tumors and lentigines in goats in a highly site-specific manner. The Angora goat model may suggest paradigms for explaining the site differences observed for human melanoma and may also be useful in the future clarification of molecular changes following carcinogenic levels of sun exposure.