Objectives: The exact role of fine needle aspiration in the pre-operative assessment of patients presenting with parotid masses is controversial. Some surgeons propose that fine needle aspiration be performed only selectively in those patients with likely malignant disease, whilst others recommend it for all patients presenting with such a mass. Intuitively, one would expect older patients to be more likely to suffer from primary malignant parotid tumours and secondary deposits of malignant skin tumours. Therefore, we hypothesised that older patients with a parotid mass should undergo fine needle aspiration regardless of their medical history.Design: We retrospectively reviewed 197 consecutive parotidectomies to test this hypothesis.Results: One hundred and twenty-one patients (61.4 per cent) were diagnosed with benign disease, whilst 76 (38.6 per cent) were diagnosed with malignant disease. Eighty-three per cent of patients aged 60 years or younger had benign disease, as opposed to 35.6 per cent of patients aged more than 60 years. Malignant disease occurred more commonly in patients older than 60 years (odds ratio 8.962, 95 per cent confidence interval 4.607-17.434).Conclusion: In patients with a parotid mass, fine needle aspiration should be performed on all those aged 60 years or older.