Malignant melanoma of soft parts, also termed clear cell sarcoma (CCS), is a rare malignancy of neural crest origin which is different from cutaneous malignant melanoma. Although a translocation involving chromosomes 12 and 22 is characteristic of clear cell sarcoma and not malignant melanoma, there are a paucity of methods to differentiate the two. Therefore, a study of microsatellite instability (MIN) was undertaken to determine if mechanisms of DNA mismatch repair can differentiate these malignancies. MIN has been described in a variety of malignancies including 25% of malignant melanomas. Paraffin-embedded neoplastic and non-neoplastic cells were obtained from 11 individuals (five males; six females; age range from seven to 60 years) with CCS. Isolated DNA was PCR amplified at 17 separate microsatellite loci using radioactive-labeled primers. Tumor tissue was compared to normal tissue for each analysis. No MIN was detected. Loss of heterozygosity was detected in only one patient at a single locus (IFNA). The lack of MIN in clear cell sarcoma further defines the distinction between this tumor and malignant melanoma. Clinically, local recurrence and metastasis were indicators of poor outcome. The size of the tumor was not a significant prognostic indicator. Local recurrence, satellitosis, or nodal metastasis was not proven to be uniformly fatal. Utilization of chemotherapy and/or radiation demonstrated no obvious survival advantage. The histologic parameters of mitotic rate and the presence of necrosis were not prognostic. Limb-preserving surgical procedures were as effective as amputation for local disease control. The actuarial survival rate was calculated to be 48% at five years.