The Nambour Skin Cancer and Actinic Eye Disease Prevention Trial (the Nambour Trial) is a field trial conducted in an unselected adult population in Australia. Using a randomized 2 x 2 factorial design, the principal aim is to evaluate whether regular use of high-protection sunscreen and/or dietary supplementation with beta-carotene (30 mg daily) can alter the incidence rates of basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas of the skin over a minimum follow-up time of 4.5 years. Changes in the incidence of solar keratoses and actinic eye disease and the rate of photoaging after intervention will also be investigated. In 1992, 1626 participants between the ages of 25 and 75 years were enrolled, all of whom had been randomly selected from residents of the southeastern Queensland township of Nambour for an earlier skin cancer prevalence survey. This paper describes the background to the trial and its design, with respect to evaluation of effects on actinic skin disease, and documents the baseline characteristics of participants recruited into the Nambour Trial.