Syndecans, a family of cell-surface proteoglycans of which syndecan-1 is the prototypical member, play an important role in limiting tumor growth and invasive capacity through their actions as receptors for growth factors and extracellular matrix. Cutaneous biopsy specimens of basal cell carcinoma, including superficial, nodular, infiltrative, and morpheic subtypes, were assessed regarding the pattern of syndecan-1 expression. We found that with increasing aggressiveness of basal cell carcinomas, syndecan-1 expression is lost from the surface of the neoplastic cells. However, within the dermis, which is normally devoid of syndecan-1 expression, immunopositivity for syndecan-1 is present in areas adjacent to aggressive tumors. This pattern of staining indicates that syndecan-1 expression is produced by stromal cells rather than being shed by the carcinoma cells into the stroma.