An increased incidence of systemic cancers has been described in some reports of familial atypical multiple mole-melanoma kindreds. If the gene defect underlying the familial atypical multiple mole-melanoma syndrome is not only important for the development of melanoma of the skin, the impact of the defect on life expectancy may be much higher than previously thought. We investigated all-cause mortality from 1830 to the present and causes of death from 1941 to 1994 in proven, obligate, and potential CDKN2 mutation carriers to obtain an estimate of the impact of a hereditary defect of the CDKN2 gene on mortality. From 1830 to 1994 there were 65 deaths, although only 42 deaths were expected [standardized mortality ratio (SMR) 1.6, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.2-2.0] and the SMR doubled with calendar time. Excess mortality was shown in most of the families, but was confined to ages 35-70 y (SMR 2.1, 95%CI 1.5-2.9). Excess mortality could be fully attributed to cancer mortality, especially to pancreatic carcinoma and melanoma of the skin. There appeared to be some heterogeneity among the families, especially due to the specific cancer pattern within a family. The impact of the defect of the CDKN2 gene is rising over calendar time, mainly because the mortality in the general population has been falling. Excess mortality was not only due to melanoma, but also to pancreatic carcinoma. Therefore, follow-up programs of affected family members should not be confined to a regular check of the atypical nevi.