We have analyzed the Ha-ras, Ki-ras and N-ras gene for point mutations at codons 12, 13 and 61 via restriction fragment length polymorphism/polymerase chain reaction analysis and subsequent direct sequencing in non-cultured fresh-frozen tissues of 16 superficial spreading melanomas (SSM), 13 nodular malignant melanomas (NMM), 2 lentigo malignant melanomas (LMM), 1 dysplastic nevus, 1 congenital nevus and 5 normal nevi from 38 patients. Mutations were found in 4 melanoma samples, all belonging to the nodular malignant type. Three of them were mutated in N-ras and one in the Ha-ras gene. Mutation in N-ras was also detected in the congenital nevus. All mutations were exclusively located at the first two base pairs of codon 61. No Ki-ras mutation was detected in any lesion. No mutation could be found in SSM and LMM in addition to dysplastic and normal nevi. The frequency of ras mutation in NMM was 31%, whereas in SSM it was 0%. Our study suggests (a) an association between ras mutations (mainly N-ras) and the NMM as a subgroup of human melanoma; (b) that activation of Ki-ras is not involved in the pathogenesis of melanoma. The role of UV radiation in point mutations of ras genes in human melanoma is discussed.