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Several studies have investigated the effect of various anthropometric factors on the risk of cutaneous malignant melanoma (CMM). As the results are controversial, we analysed this issue in a case–control study conducted in Italy. The roles of several body size measures were investigated in a hospital-based case–control study of CMM conducted in Italy. The cases were 542 patients with CMM and the controls were 538 subjects admitted to the same hospitals as the cases for non-dermatological and non-neoplastic diseases. The odds ratios for the highest versus the lowest quartile were 2.06 [95% confidence interval (CI), 1.39–3.05] for weight, 1.16 (95% CI, 0.80–1.68) for height, 1.90 (95% CI, 1.28–2.80) for the body mass index (BMI) and 1.87 (95% CI, 1.28–2.72) for the body surface area (BSA). When allowing for BMI and BSA in the same model, the odds ratios were 1.55 (95% CI, 0.92–2.62) for BMI and 1.41 (95% CI, 0.85–2.33) for BSA. The present findings confirm that obesity increases the risk of CMM. BSA is also related to the risk of CMM. In terms of the population attributable risk, overweight and obesity would account for 31% of the cases of CMM in this Italian population, indicating the scope of prevention.