Historically, Breslow classified thin melanomas as invasive lesions less than 0.76 mm in depth with rare instances of recurrence and mortality. From 1970 to 1990, 87 patients with thin head and neck melanoma were treated at Duke Medical Center. A computer-aided retrospective analysis was performed. Recurrence occurred in 30% of these patients; how ever, of the 66 patients seen at this institution prior to recurrence, only 8% recurred. Recurrence signifycantly shortened survival. Compared to an overall 84% 5-year survival, there was less than a 50% 5-year survival after recurrence For thin melanomas, thickness did not affect survival. There was no difference in survival between thin melanomas and those ranging from 0.76 to 1.5 mm. A multivariate analysis was performed. The data suggest that thin melanomas of the head and neck may recur at a higher rate than previously reported and in addition, that they can be lethal.