A workshop to discuss primary oral melanomas was convened at the annual Western Society of Teachers of Oral Pathology meeting in Bannf, Alberta, Canada. Fifty oral melanomas, identified from the files of the participants, were reviewed in order to better understand the clinical features, histologic spectrum, and natural history of these perplexing lesions. Results confirmed that oral melanomas occur in adults almost three times more frequently in men than women and have a decided predilection for the palate and gingiva. Some lesions exhibit a clinically detectable and prolonged in situ growth phase, whereas others seem to lack this property and exhibit only or predominantly invasive characteristics. Recurrences, metastases, and death from tumor were characteristic of the follow-up of a limited number of patients. Until definitive prospective data are collected that elucidate natural history, oral mucosal melanomas should be tracked separately from cutaneous lesions. All oral pigmented lesions that are not clinically diagnostic should be biopsied. Lesions with equivocal histopathologic features might be referred to as "atypical melanocytic proliferation" and should be excised. Recognition of lesions in an early in situ phase and aggressive treatment should have a favorable effect on prognosis. To enhance future or prospective study of these rare neoplasms, guidelines for reporting oral melanomas are suggested.