Xiphophorus interspecies hybrids provide genetically controlled models of tumor formation. Spontaneous melanomas form in first-generation backcross (BC(1)) hybrids produced from backcrossing F(1) hybrids derived from the platyfish X. maculatus Jp 163 A and the swordtail X. helleri to the X. helleri parental strain (the Gordon-Kosswig hybrid cross). Nodular melanomas originate in the dorsal fin from cells constituting the spotted dorsal (Sd) pigment pattern. A parallel genetic cross, with X. maculatus Jp 163 B, exhibits the spotted side (Sp) pigment pattern instead of Sd, and produces BC(1) hybrids exhibiting a much lower frequency of spontaneous melanoma formation. These hybrids are susceptible to melanoma development if irradiated with UV light as fry. Other hybrids involving these two strains of X. maculatus and different swordtail and platyfish backcross parents also have been investigated as potential tumor models, and show differing susceptibilities to UV-induced and spontaneous melanomas. Genotyping of individual BC(1) hybrids from several Xiphophorus crosses has implicated a locus, CDKN2X (a Xiphophorus homologue of the mammalian CDKN2 gene family, residing on Xiphophorus linkage group V), in enhancing pigmentation and the susceptibility to spontaneous and UV-induced melanoma formation in BC(1) hybrids from some crosses, but not others. Homozygosity for X. helleri and X. couchianus CDKN2X alleles in BC(1) hybrids can predispose individuals to melanoma, but this susceptibility is modified in other crosses depending both on the contributing sex-linked pigment pattern locus from X. maculatus (Sd or Sp), and the genetic constitution of the backcross parent. Xiphophorus BC(1) hybrids constitute unique genetic models offering the potential to analyze the contributions of specific genes to spontaneous and induced tumor formation in different, but comparable genetic backgrounds.