The incidence of burns in the province of Malaga, Spain, was determined by means of a descriptive, cross-sectional, population-based study, and the individual, social and environmental conditions of the patients were analysed. Five hundred families (1846 persons), selected by a three-stage, stratified sampling, were interviewed in their homes. Five hundred and six burns were found in 406 persons (1.25 burns/person); 89.5 per cent of these were in an urban environment and 10.5 per cent in a rural environment. Eighteen and a half per cent of the sample had burnt themselves only once and 4.7 per cent more than once. The burns affected 23.3 per cent of the population, although the majority were of little clinical importance. The risk of burns is greater in the urban environment than in the rural environment, with burns occurring most often in the home (65.8 per cent), and especially in the kitchen. The most frequent burns involve hot liquids with special risk from cooking oil. The other burns (in the strict sense of the word, proper burns or true burns), were primarily caused by contact. The incidence was higher in women (33.0 vs. 21.1 per cent), with burns occurring mostly on the hands. Only 21.9 per cent of the burns received the correct first aid after the accident.