Background Prior analyses of survival of patients with primary cutaneous malignant melanoma from Germany were based only on small populations and need to be updated. Objectives We give a detailed overview of relative 5-year survival by sex, age group, histology, tumour stage and body site, and of time trends in a population of 33 million (40% of Germany), and compare survival in the federal states. Methods Conventional and model-based period analysis using the Ederer II method was applied to patients with melanoma diagnosed during 1997-2006 in Germany to assess 5-year relative survival (RS) rates and time trends. Results In total, 37 155 melanoma cases were included. Overall age-adjusted 5-year RS for the time period 2002-2006 was 91·9% for women and 87·0% for men. Survival differences by age group, histology, tumour stage and body site were found. No significant overall trend (2002-2006) was seen either in women or in men. Differences in survival between federal states were small; no clear pattern was seen. Conclusions Based on the most recent and high-quality data from population-based cancer registries a comprehensive picture on melanoma survival in Germany was given. Survival from cutaneous malignant melanoma was high compared with other cancer sites and did not change during the analysed period 2002-2006. Patterns in melanoma survival by sex, age, tumour stage, histology and body site were in good agreement with previously published findings. No relevant differences between federal states were found.