Cutaneous malignant melanoma (CMM) is a potentially fatal form of skin cancer whose aetiology is heterogeneous and complex. The incidence of cutaneous malignant melanoma has continued to rise over the past two decades in many regions of the world.1,2 Data from the Scottish Melanoma Group showed that from 1979 to 1994 the annual age standardized incidence of CMM in Scotland increased significantly from 3.5 to 7.8 per 100 000 per year in men and from 6.8 to 12.3 per 100 000 per year in women. The incidence of melanoma continued to increase significantly in men of all ages during the study but the rate stabilized in women after 1986.1 In the USA, over the period 1973-1997, the incidence of malignant melanoma among whites increased more than 150 per cent from 6.3 per 100 000 to 16.2 per 100 000, more than that of any other cancer. The overall age-adjusted incidence rate of invasive melanoma for 1990-1997 was 12.4 per 100 000, 14.2 per 100 000 in Whites and 0.8 per 100 000 in blacks. For White men, the overall age-adjusted incidence was 17.4 per 100 000 and for White women 11.9 per 100 000.2

In Australia, which has the highest incidence of cutaneous melanoma in both men and women, the age-standardized melanoma incidence in 1992-1996 varied with latitude from 33 per 100 000 males and 28 per 100 000 females in Victoria to 63 per 100 000 males and 46 per 100 000 females in Queensland.3