Painful sunburns are implicated in the pathogenesis of squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and malignant melanoma. Chronic exposure to ultraviolet radiation is known as the most important risk factor for the development of actinic keratoses and squamous cell carcinoma. The purpose of the study was to assess the effect of painful sunburns and lifetime sun exposure on the development of actinic keratoses and seborrheic warts in relation to the development of squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma, and on the development of melanocytic nevi and atypical nevi in relation to the development of malignant melanoma. We made use of a cohort of 966 individuals who participated in a case-control study to investigate environmental and genetic risk factors for skin cancer. Exposure measurements for sunlight were collected and actinic keratoses, seborrheic warts, melanocytic nevi, and atypical nevi were counted. Relative risks were estimated using exposure odds ratios from cross-tabulation. Multivariate logistic regression was used to adjust for potential confounders. The recall of painful sunburns before the age of 20 y was associated with an increased risk of squamous cell carcinoma, nodular basal cell carcinoma, and multifocal superficial basal cell carcinoma as well as actinic keratoses. Odds ratios with 95% confidence intervals adjusted for age, sex, and skin type were 1.5 (0.97; 2.3); 1.6 (1.1; 2.2); 2.6 (1.7; 3.8); and 1.9 (1.4; 2.6) for the three types of nonmelanoma skin cancer and actinic keratoses, respectively. Painful sunburns before the age of 20 y were also associated with an increased risk of malignant melanoma and the development of its precursors, melanocytic nevi and atypical nevi. Odds ratios with 95% confidence intervals adjusted for age, sex, and skin type were 1.4 (0.86; 2.1); 1.5 (1.1; 2.0); and 1.4 (0.88; 2.3) for malignant melanoma and the two types of precursors, respectively. Lifetime sun exposure was predominantly associated with an increased risk of squamous cell carcinoma (p-value for trend=0.03) and actinic keratoses (p-value for trend <0.0001) and to a lesser degree with the two types of basal cell carcinoma. By contrast, lifetime sun exposure appeared to be associated with a lower risk of malignant melanoma, despite the fact that lifetime sun exposure did not diminish the number of melanocytic nevi or atypical nevi. Neither painful sunburns nor lifetime sun exposure were associated with an increased risk of seborrheic warts.