Episodic exposure of fair-skinned individuals to intense sunlight is thought to be responsible for the steadily increasing melanoma incidence worldwide over recent decades. Rarely, melanoma susceptibility is increased more than tenfold by heritable mutations in the cell cycle regulatory genes CDKN2A and CDK4. Effective treatment requires early diagnosis followed by surgical excision with adequately wide margins. Sentinel lymph node biopsy provides accurate staging, but no published results are yet available from clinical trials designed to assess the therapeutic efficacy of early complete regional node dissection in those with metastatic disease in a sentinel node. Magnetic resonance spectroscopy is one technique under investigation for non-invasive, in-situ assessment of sentinel nodes. Localised metastatic disease is best treated surgically. No postoperative adjuvant therapy is of proven value for improving overall survival, although numerous clinical trials of vaccines and cytokines are in progress. Medical therapies have contributed little to the control of established metastatic disease, but molecular pathways recently identified as being central to melanoma growth and apoptosis are under intense investigation for their potential as therapeutic targets.