The clinical behaviour of melanoma is often unpredictable using clinical and histological criteria. Tumour cell markers related to cell cycle regulation, apoptosis, cell-cell interactions and cell proliferation might improve the possibility of predicting the clinical course of melanoma. The aim of the present study was to refine prognostic criteria by an immunocytochemical investigation of CD44, CD40, bcl-2 antigens and cell proliferation in tumour cells aspirated from metastases of malignant melanoma. CD40 is a cell surface receptor shown to be expressed by lymphomas as well as carcinomas, and is thought to play a central role in the process of tumour progression. CD44 is a transmembrane glycoprotein, which is involved in growth signal transmission of importance in the binding of tumour cells to endothelium, cell migration and enhancement of cell motility, which makes it of interest to study in relation to the metastasizing capacity of tumours. The bcl-2 protein is active in the process of programmed cell death (apoptosis) as an antiapoptotic agent and its expression may reflect tumour progression. Mean/median percentages of tumour cell positivity were 8.5/3.0 for CD40, 76.1/86.3 for CD44 and 7.4/3.3 for bcl-2. A significant correlation was observed between expression of apoptosis-associated bcl-2 antigen and overall survival (r = 0.33). The CD44 positive cell fraction was higher in patients with short overall survival than those with long survival but this difference was not statistically significant. The expression of CD40 did not correlate with overall survival. The mean/median proliferation fraction assessed by MIB-1 monoclonal antibody was 25.8/23.9 and showed a significant correlation with survival after diagnosis of melanoma metastasis (r = 0.32). Lack of bcl-2 expression and a high proportion of tumour cells expressing Ki-67 antigen are predictors of poor prognosis that are independent of the traditionally accepted Breslow's thickness of the primary melanomas.