Public education campaigns to encourage early diagnosis of melanoma have been conducted in a number of countries with predominantly white populations for more than a decade. During the mid to late 1980s the incidence of melanoma has increased sharply above long-term trends in some of these populations. There is evidence that these campaigns can lead to earlier diagnosis of the disease, and thus advancement of the time of diagnosis certainly accounts for some of the recent incidence increases. However, it is possible that earlier diagnosis has also uncovered a preexisting nonfatal (nonmetastasizing) form of melanoma, and that this accounts for a substantial proportion of increases in incidence. Although this should not alter public education for early diagnosis of melanoma, it should give caution to current enthusiasm for population screening for the disease.