Age, ultrasound score, menopausal status, a clinical impression score and serum CA 125 level were assessed to see how they could best distinguish between patients with benign (n = 101) and malignant (n = 42) pelvic masses. Each criteria used alone provided statistically significant discrimination. The most useful individual criteria were a serum CA 125 level of 30 U/ml (sensitivity 81%, specificity 75%) and an ultrasound score of 2 (sensitivity 71%, specificity 83%). Three criteria could be combined in a risk of malignancy index (RMI) which is simply calculated using the product of the serum CA 125 level (U/ml), the ultrasound scan result (expressed as a score of 0, 1 or 3) and the menopausal status (1 if premenopausal and 3 if postmenopausal). This index was statistically virtually as effective a discriminant between cancer and benign lesions as more formal methods. Using an RMI cut-off level of 200, the sensitivity was 85% and the specificity was 97%. Patients with an RMI score of greater than 200 had, on average, 42 times the background risk of cancer and those with a lower value 0.15 times the background risk.