Cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor type 2A (CDKN2A) has been identified as a major melanoma susceptibility gene based on the presence of germline mutations in high-risk melanoma families. In this study, we sought to identify and characterize the spectrum of CDKN2A mutations affecting p16 inhibitor of cyclin-dependent kinase type 4 (INK4a) in individuals with melanoma using a population-based study design. DNA samples from 1189 individuals with incident multiple primary melanoma (MPM) and 2424 with incident single primary melanoma unselected for family history of melanoma were available for screening of CDKN2A (p16INK4a) mutations. Variants were classified for functional impact based on intragenic position, existing functional data, sequence, and structural analysis. The impact of individual mutations and functional groupings was assessed by comparing frequencies in cases of MPM versus cases with a single first primary melanoma, and by comparing the reported incidence rates in first-degree relatives. Our results show that mutations occur infrequently in these high-risk groups, and that they occur mainly in exons 1alpha and 2. Rare coding variants with putative functional impact are observed to increase substantially the risk of melanoma. With the exception of the variant in position -34 of CDKN2A of known functional consequence, the remaining rare variants in the non-coding region have no apparent impact on risk.