The American Academy of Dermatology's national program of Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention, developed in response to the rising incidence of invasive melanoma in the United States, has annually produced extensive print, radio, and television coverage about performing skin self- examination (SSE). This study was conducted to determine factors that motivate people to perform SSE. A 1996 telephone survey evaluated performance of SSE for skin cancer and used questions to identify self-perceived. The performance of SSE was directly correlated with the self-perceived risk of the development of melanoma or skin cancer and discussions with physicians or nurses. People were motivated to perform SSE based on their perceived risk and discussions with doctors. Because patients most easily have access to primary care physicians, these physicians must be educated to identify those who are at risk for the development of melanoma. Primary care physicians and nurses should be encouraged to counsel patients about risk levels, the utility of SSE in limiting their risk, and how to perform SSE. To facilitate this process, risk levels for the development of melanoma (defined on the basis of simple and readily ascertained characteristics that help to educate physicians, nurses, and patients) are provided.