Background  For Greece, no data regarding the incidence of cutaneous melanoma (CM) have been reported. In this report, we present epidemiologic data for CM on Crete, an island in southern Greece, during the years 1999–2002. We attempt a comparison with corresponding data reported for the Italian population.

Methods  One hundred and two CM patients of Cretan origin with primary CM first diagnosed between the years 1999–2002 were interviewed and underwent complete skin examination by the same two experienced dermatologists. Crude and/or age-standardized incidence rates were calculated for Crete as a whole, as well as for each one of the four prefectures of the island.

Results  The age-standardized incidence rate according to the Greek population was 4.6 per 100,000 person-years for men and 4.7 per 100,000 person-years for women. The crude incidence rates did not differ significanty between the four prefectures. Significant differences between Cretan and Italian CM patients were found in terms of gender, age at diagnosis, anatomic site and histogenetic type of CM, hair color, skin reaction to sun exposure, history of sunburn before the age of 15 years, presence of solar lentigines, and total common nevus count.

Conclusions  The incidence of CM on Crete is higher than that estimated for the whole of Greece and comparable with the incidence reported for other southern European countries.