Résumé : Susceptibility to solar ultraviolet is an important melanoma risk factor. We investigated the relationship between individual susceptibility to ultraviolet and risk of melanoma by measuring the apoptosis triggered in peripheral lymphocytes by a low-dose ultraviolet B irradiation (50 J/m(2)) in young and older melanoma patients and controls. Melanoma patients below the age of 40 are more sensitive to UVB-induced apoptosis than older melanoma patients and healthy controls. Analysis of data (adjusted for age and phototype) shows that UVB-induced apoptosis is an important risk factor for melanoma (OR 9.1, 95% CI [3-28], P=0.0001). UVB-induced apoptosis is independent of phototype (P=0.11, Wald test) and tumour thickness (P=0.88, Spearman correlation, for all cases and 0.26 for patients younger than 40 years), and may be used as a functional laboratory test for studying the genetic-environment interactions involved in melanoma occurrence.