Childhood and adolescent melanoma is rare, accounting for only 1.3% for all cases of cancer in patients under the age of 20 years. However, in 15-19 year olds, melanoma accounts for up to 7% of all cancers. Review of reported cases in this age group reveals that predisposing 'paediatric' conditions such as a giant congenital melanocytic naevi or xeroderma pigmentosum are rarely present. Furthermore, inactivating germ-line mutations of the gene CDKN2A have only been reported in 1.5% of cases of early onset melanoma. Epidemiological studies suggest that interactions between solar exposure, development of naevi, pigmentary traits, and a family history of melanoma are the main determinants of melanoma development during the first 20 years of life. As yet, there are no available staging or treatment strategies for this group of patients so treatment recommendations are based on the adult experience. To improve our understanding of the natural history of melanoma and to identify the most appropriate therapies for young patients with this disease, practising physicians are encouraged to enroll their patients, especially those with advanced stage disease, in cooperative group trials which incorporate newer staging systems and promising therapies.