We are developing a new method to characterize the margin of a mammographic mass lesion to improve the classification of benign and malignant masses. Towards this goal, we designed features that measure the degree of sharpness and microlobulation of mass margins. We calculated these features in a border region of the mass defined as a thin band along the mass contour. The importance of these features in the classification of benign and malignant masses was studied in relation to existing features used for mammographic mass detection. Features were divided into three groups, each representing a different mass segment: the interior region of a mass, the border and the outer area. The interior and the outer area of a mass were characterized using contrast and spiculation measures. Classification was done in two steps. First, features representing each of the three mass segments were merged into a neural network classifier resulting in a single regional classification score for each segment. Secondly, a classifier combined the three single scores into a final output to discriminate between benign and malignant lesions. We compared the classification performance of each regional classifier and the combined classifier on a data set of 1076 biopsy proved masses (590 malignant and 486 benign) from 481 women included in the Digital Database for Screening Mammography. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis was used to evaluate the accuracy of the classifiers. The area under the ROC curve (A(z)) was 0.69 for the interior mass segment, 0.76 for the border segment and 0.75 for the outer mass segment. The performance of the combined classifier was 0.81 for image-based and 0.83 for case-based evaluation. These results show that the combination of information from different mass segments is an effective approach for computer-aided characterization of mammographic masses. An advantage of this approach is that it allows the assessment of the contribution of regions rather than individual features. Results suggest that the border and the outer areas contained the most valuable information for discrimination between benign and malignant masses.