Xeroderma pigmentosum (XP) patients with a defect in the nucleotide excision repair gene XPA, develop tumors with a high frequency on sun-exposed areas of the skin. Here we describe that hairless XPA-deficient mice also develop skin tumors with a short latency time and a 100% prevalence after daily exposure to low doses of U.V.B. Surprisingly and in contrast to U.V.B.-exposed repair proficient hairless mice who mainly develop squamous cell carcinomas, the XPA-deficient mice developed papillomas with a high frequency (31%) at a U.V. dose of 32 J/m2 daily. At the highest daily dose of 80 J/m2 mainly squamous cell carcinomas (56%) and only 10% of papillomas were found in XPA-deficient hairless mice. p53 gene mutations were examined in exons 5, 7 and 8 and were detected in only 3 out of 37 of these skin tumors, whereas in tumors of control U.V.B.-irradiated wild type littermates this frequency was higher (45%) and more in line with our previous data. Strikingly, a high incidence of activating ras gene mutations were observed in U.V.B.-induced papillomas (in 11 out of 14 tumors analysed). In only two out of 14 squamous cell carcinomas we found similar ras gene mutations. The observed shift from squamous cell carcinomas in wild type hairless mice to papillomas in XPA-deficient hairless mice, and a corresponding shift in mutated cancer genes in these tumors, provide new clues on the pathogenesis of chemically- versus U.V.B.-induced skin carcinogenesis.