Objective-To examine the management of patients who had a malignant melanoma excised initially by general practitioners in south east Scotland over the past 10 years and to assess the impact ofthe April 1990 contract on this. Design-A retrospective case-control study. Setting-South east Scotland. Subjects-All patients in south east Scotland who had malignant melanomas excised by general practitioners in 1982-91. Outcome measures-Demographic details of patients; Breslow thickness, clearance ofexcision. Results-42 patients had malignant melanomas excised by general practitioners in 1982-91: 15 in 1982-9 and 27 in 1990-1. These patients were significantly younger than those who had their tumours excised initially in hospital. Although the longest diameter of melanomas excised by general practitioners was significantly less than of those excised in hospital, the Breslow thicknesses were similar. Completeness of initial excision was doubtful or incomplete in nine (23%) general practitioner excisions compared with 40/o of hospital excisions, but the time interval between excision biopsy and wide excision was similar. Pathology requests accompanying excision biopsies mentioned melanoma as a possible diagnosis in 15% (6/40) of general practitioner cases compared with 790/o of hospital cases. Thirty nine general practitioners responded to a questionnaire and only 12 had considered melanoma in the differential diagnosis. Conclusions-General practitioners need to think more often ofmalignant melanoma when they excise pigmented lesions and when they consider this tumour a possibility should perform an excision biopsy with a lateral clearance ofat least 2 mm.