Apperly [1941. The relation of solar radiation to cancer mortality in North America. Cancer Research 1, 191-195] first proposed that increased mortality from cancer in the north than in the south of the USA might be due to the south to north decrease in ambient solar radiation. This inverse association between ambient solar radiation and cancer mortality has been subsequently reported for cancers of the colon, breast, ovary and prostate. While the evidence that sunlight might be related to lower incidence or more favourable outcomes from cancer came initially from ecological studies, case-control and cohort studies have now shown a similar association of sun exposure with risks of colon, breast and prostate cancers in individuals, and other studies in individuals have found that serum and dietary vitamin D levels are associated with reduced risks of colorectal cancer and, less certainly, prostate cancer. Studies in individuals have recently also suggested an effect of sun exposure to reduce risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and to increase survival after a diagnosis of melanoma. Data on variation in survival from cancer by season of diagnosis suggest that sun exposure may also improve outcome from cancers of the breast, colon and prostate and Hodgkin lymphoma.