A comparison of the site distribution of cutaneous malignant melanoma in New Zealand and Canada was performed. This series deals with 41,331 incident cases registered between 1968 and 1990 and is the largest to date to evaluate the influence of age and gender on the site distribution of melanoma. Site-specific, age-standardized rates per unit surface area and relative tumour density were assessed by gender and country and differences compared with statistical techniques adapted to this context. The age-standardized rates for all sites were higher in New Zealand than in Canada, the ratio being 3.2 for men and 3.8 for women. Occurrence of melanoma was denser for chronically than intermittently exposed sites in both New Zealand and Canada. The highest incidence rate per unit area was for the ears in men which was more than 5 times the rate for the entire body in each country. For each gender, melanomas were relatively commoner on the trunk and the face in Canada, and on the lower limbs in New Zealand. The variations in the site distribution were similar in each country and consistent with the effect of differential patterns of sun exposure between genders. Our results show that the levels of risk of melanoma between phenotypically comparable populations exposed to different amount of UV radiation vary in a site-specific manner, especially for intermittently exposed sites. This suggests that both environmental conditions and lifestyle factors influence the site distribution of melanoma in these two populations.