Although no study has definitively shown that unfocused screening of skin cancer is effective, many campaigns have been organized with the aim of increasing awareness on melanoma risk factors. The objective of this study was to analyse the results of the Skin Cancer Screening Day in Italy during the period 2005-2007, to determine the priorities for melanoma control plans in a Mediterranean country. A total of 5002 patients were screened by dermatologists in 31 cities. Individuals who considered themselves to have many naevi and those with a family history of melanoma showed a higher number of common and atypical naevi. Ten melanomas, 20 basal cell carcinomas and two squamous cell carcinomas were histopathologically confirmed. Our observations provide the following suggestions for melanoma prevention strategies: (a) an unfocused campaign is suitable to inform the public about the importance of self-examination of the skin, but is not useful to identify a larger number of melanomas; and (b) melanoma screening campaigns should focus on a selected population, which meets rigorous risk criteria to maintain higher cost-effectiveness. The financial support to effective melanoma screening programmes could be increased, especially in southern populations where lower levels of self-surveillance and socioeconomic conditions represent risk factors for late identification of melanoma.