AIMS--Aqueous flare was used to determine the frequency and amount of blood-aqueous barrier breakdown and correlate it with tumour variables. METHODS--Aqueous flare was analysed prospectively by laser flare photometry in 139 consecutive patients seen in the oncology unit for choroidal melanoma. Both eyes of patients were examined with a laser flare cell meter in a standard fashion. RESULTS--Mean flare difference between healthy and tumour eyes was 3.01 (SD 2.5) photons per millisecond (ph/ms) in 32 cases of small melanomas (p < 0.0001), 10.74 (13.9) ph/ms in 92 cases of medium and large melanomas (p < 0.0001), and 19.23 (11.8) ph/ms in 15 cases of very large melanomas (p < 0.0001). This mean differential flare was significantly higher in medium and large than in small melanomas (p < 0.002) and in very large melanomas than in medium and large melanomas (p < 0.028). A difference of > or = 7 ph/ms between affected and healthy eyes was noted in 70 of 139 melanomas (50.4%). It was found in 3/32 small melanomas (9.4%), in 53/92 medium and large melanomas (57.6%), and in 14/15 very large melanomas (93.3%). CONCLUSION--Multiple linear regression analysis showed that flare was most strongly correlated with tumour volume (r = 0.43; p < 0.0001) and tumour height (r = 0.41; p < 0.0008).