A number of authors have reported the detection of tyrosinase mRNA in the peripheral blood of patients with malignant melanoma using the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). The precise value of this assay as a prognostic tool, however, remains in doubt. This is particularly so with relation to localised disease, where relatively little data has been accumulated. In this study we analysed the peripheral blood of 50 consecutive patients with primary malignant melanoma referred to a plastic surgical centre with the facility of a pigmented lesion clinic. Samples were analysed from an additional 35 patients with advanced melanoma disease and 35 patients with benign pigmented cutaneous lesions. We were able to identify tyrosinase transcripts in the peripheral blood of only two of 50 patients with localised disease. Of those with more advanced disease, a positive finding was found in three with regional disease and four patients with metastatic spread. Stage of disease was found to correlate significantly with PCR status. No correlation was identified with other prognostic markers or with outcome over a three-year period. This data would support the conclusion that the detection of tyrosinase mRNA in peripheral blood is likely to be of little value as an aid in the management of patients with early malignant melanoma.