The clinical behaviour and prognosis of primary melanomas harbouring BRAF mutations is not fully understood.To investigate the effect of mutation status on primary melanoma growth rate and melanoma-specific survival (MSS).A prospective cohort of 196 patients with stage I-III primary cutaneous melanoma were followed for a median of 92 months, pre-dating the institution of BRAF inhibitor therapy. Clinicopathological variables were correlated with mutation status and hazard ratios (HRs) estimated for MSS.Of 196 tumours, 77 (39.2%) were BRAF V600E, 10 (5.1%) BRAF V600K and 33 (16.8%) were NRAS mutant. BRAF V600E mutant melanomas were associated with favourable clinical characteristics and tended to be slower growing compared with BRAF V600K, NRAS mutant or BRAF/NRAS wild-type tumours (0.12 mm per month, 0.61 mm per month, 0.36 mm per month and 0.23 mm per month, respectively; P = 0.05). There were 39 melanoma deaths, and BRAF mutant melanomas were associated with poorer MSS in stage I-III disease [HR 2.60, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.20-5.63; P = 0.02] and stage I-II disease (HR 3.39, 95% CI 1.12-10.22; P = 0.03) after adjusting for other prognostic variables. Considered separately, BRAF V600E mutant melanomas were strongly associated with MSS independently of thickness and nodal status (HR 3.89, 95% CI 1.67-9.09; P < 0.01) but BRAF V600K mutant tumours were not (HR 1.19, 95% CI 0.36-3.92; P = 0.77).The presence of a BRAF mutation does not necessarily 'drive' more rapid tumour growth but is associated with poorer MSS in patients with early-stage disease.