Our population-based study establishes epidemiological data on age-specific incidence rates, clinical presentation, Breslow microstaging, treatment and survival of nail apparatus melanoma (NAM) patients in England. Four cancer registries, covering a population of 10.6 million, recorded 105 cases of NAM during the period 1984–93. During the same decade there was a total of 7585 patients with cutaneous melanoma and NAM represents 1.4% of all cutaneous melanoma. The incidence rate of NAM in English patients is 0.1 per 100,000 of the population per annum. Amelanotic melanoma was the clinical presentation in 24 of our NAM cases. The overall prognosis is poor with an observed 5 year survival of only 51%. Patients with NAM less than 2.5 mm Breslow depth have a 5 year survival of 88% and are twice as likely to survive compared with those with tumours greater or equal to 2.5 mm in thickness (P < 0.05). NAM patients are best managed by a multidisciplinary team approach in a few key skin cancer centres.