The incidence of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) has increased substantially in many countries over recent decades. The aetiology of this cancer is poorly understood, and this rise is largely unexplained. The incidence of NHL is known to increase markedly following immune suppression. In the light of evidence that exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) may cause systemic immune suppression, part of the recent increase in NHL incidence may reflect population-based increases in UVR exposure. That such exposure increases have occurred is inferred from the widespread increases in skin cancer incidence in fair-skinned populations, especially malignant melanoma (MM), over recent decades. Epidemiological evidence presented here in support of the proposed UVR-NHL relationship includes the following: in Caucasian populations there is a moderate positive correlation between ambient UVR level, by latitude, and NHL incidence; there is also a positive correlation between time trends in MM incidence and NHL; there is some evidence that migration across latitude gradients induces concordant shifts in risks of NHL and MM. Data from two historical cancer patient registers show that, in individuals, these two cancers concurred a little more often than expected. These findings support recent suggestions that UVR-induced impairment of immune functioning contributes to the aetiology of NHL.