Keratoacanthoma (KA) resolves spontaneously but is regarded by some as a variant of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). However, others consider KA a totally benign entity. Syndecan-1 is one of the heparan sulfate proteoglycans that mediates intercellular and cell to matrix adhesion. Its expression appears to be inversely correlated with tumor aggressiveness and invasiveness. Previous studies have shown decreased levels of syndecan-1 expression in invasive cutaneous SCC, correlating with tumor de-differentiation. However, a similar study has never been done on KA. To investigate syndecan-1 expression in classic KA and compare the results with those of classic invasive SCC, 24 KAs were immunostained for syndecan-1 (CD 138) using the monoclonal antibody B-B4 on formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissue. Results were semiquantitatively scored as either negative or positive (mild, moderate, or strong) and compared with those previously obtained on 23 invasive SCC and in situ lesions. All 24 KAs were positive for syndecan-1 expression. Staining intensity of 18 cases was comparable with that of SCC in situ or adjacent normal epidermis. By comparison, invasive SCC showed significantly diminished staining. Reduced staining in focal areas of cytologic atypia at the base was present in three KAs. Syndecan-1 expression in KA mirrors that of SCC in situ and normal epidermis, providing a molecular basis that biologically KA may be closely related to SCC in situ but distinctively different from invasive SCC. © 2002 by The United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology, Inc.