Cutaneous melanoma is a highly invasive and metastatic tumor. Degradation of basement membranes and extracellular matrix is an essential step in melanoma cell migration, invasion, and metastasis formation. Matrix metalloproteinases and their tissue inhibitors play a crucial role in these complex multistep processes. Melanoma cells may express a number of matrix metalloproteinase family members (MMP-1, MMP-2, MMP-9, MMP-13, and MT1-MMP) as well as their tissue inhibitors (TIMP-1, TIMP-2, and TIMP-3). Numerous studies have examined matrix metalloproteinases, their tissue inhibitors, and the molecules that regulate their expression and/or activation in melanoma cell lines in vitro and in vivo, and in human melanocytic lesions. Recent results have indicated that adhesion molecules such as CD44 and integrin alphavbeta3 are involved in positioning activated matrix metalloproteinase molecules on the cell surface of invasive tumor cells. In this review we evaluate these novel aspects of the role of matrix metalloproteinases and their tissue inhibitors in melanoma progression. We conclude that the balance between levels of activated matrix metalloproteinases and expression levels of their tissue inhibitors, and the coexpression of activated matrix metalloproteinases and adhesion molecules are important factors in determining melanoma cell invasion, tumor growth, and metastasis formation.