The occurrence and number of melanocytic nevi are among the most important known risk factors for the development of malignant melanoma. Studying the causes of nevi should lead to successful strategies in the prevention of melanoma. Among 11,478 white German children of preschool age the association between benign melanocytic nevi and a number of risk factors for skin cancer was examined. We found that subjects with a reported history of increased sun exposure, for example, painful sunburns, and an increased number of holidays in foreign countries with a sunny climate had significantly higher nevus counts than individuals without these characteristics. Our results provide further evidence that nevus counts may not only be part of a genetic predisposition but also a result of increased exposure to ultraviolet radiation. Together with the fact that a high nevus count is the most relevant risk factor for malignant melanoma, the results strongly indicate a connection between UV-radiation and the development of melanocytic skin cancer. In conclusion, strategies to reduce the incidence of melanoma should begin with young children.