Variations in the melanocortin-1 receptor (MC1R) and in the glutathione-S transferase genes mu1 (GSTM1) and theta 1 (GSTT1) have been reported to influence UV sensitivity and melanoma risk. MC1R is one of the major genes that determine skin pigmentation because the melanocortin-1 receptor regulates eumelanin synthesis. GSTT1 and GSTM1 are enzymes expressed in the skin that detoxify products of oxidative stress reactions caused by UV irradiation. In this study variations in the MC1R, GSTM1 and T1 genes were analyzed in 347 healthy subjects and 322 patients with cutaneous malignant melanoma by direct cycle sequencing, RFLP and multiplex PCR. Important phenotypic characteristics of the study participants were obtained to assess whether genetic associations occurred independently of phenotypic risk factors for melanoma. We found an association of the MC1R D84E and R151C polymorphisms with melanoma (odds ratios for carriage of the rare allele 4.96, 95% CI [1.06-23.13], P = 0.032, and 1.69, 95% CI [1.12-2.55], P = 0.013, respectively). Melanoma risk increased with the number of variant MC1R alleles carried by an individual (P = 0.003). In a multivariate model, however, only the D84E polymorphism influenced melanoma risk independently of the risk factors fair skin type, high nevus count and high age (P = 0.047). There was no effect of homozygous GST M1 or T1 deletions on melanoma risk. In contrast to previous data, there was no evidence that GSTM1 deficiency influences melanoma risk in the subgroup of individuals with red or blond hair.