Surgeons hesitate to accept lesser cancer operations for several reasons. Paramount, however, is the fear that they might jeopardize cure rates by inadvertently leaving residual tumor behind. In cutaneous melanoma, for example, wide excision of the primary tumor site, usually in combination with skin grafting, has been the standard for years. Recently, as the biologic characteristics of this neoplastic system have become better understood, a subset of patients has been identified who can be cured readily by surgical excision alone. It is in this low-risk group of patients that lesser margins of excisions have been advocated. To date, a majority of surgeons have not accepted this thesis. In an effort to study this further, one of us prospectively treated 45 patients with thin, low-risk melanomas by conservative excision of their primary tumor sites. The margins invariably were 2 cm or less, and two thirds of the patients were operated on as out-patients utilizing local anesthesia. After a mean follow-up period of 36 months, no recurrences of melanoma developed. Acceptance of this treatment appears appropriate in this subset of patients.