BACKGROUND: Previous Commission on Cancer Studies have examined time trends in stage of disease and treatment patterns for melanoma. Reported herein are the most current National Cancer Data Base (NCDB) data for melanoma. METHODS: Two calls for data have yielded 20,165 melanoma cases for 1985, 1988, and 1990 from hospital cancer registries across the country. RESULTS: There was a marked increase in Stage 0 (in situ) tumors between 1985 and 1990. NCDB data confirm a trend for more conservative surgical excision of skin melanoma. Use of multimodality therapy was infrequent. CONCLUSIONS: Survival data confirmed an excellent correlation between stage of disease and outcome. Early skin melanoma is highly curable.