The immune system plays an important role in ultraviolet (UV) carcinogenesis by contributing to host resistance against skin cancer development. UV radiation, however, circumvents immune surveillance against skin cancers by modulating the immune response in a way that favors tumor development. Studies addressing the cellular mechanisms by which UV radiation modifies immune function are summarized. These studies demonstrate that UV irradiation of the skin produces both local, nonspecific immune suppression that inhibits immune effector functions within irradiated skin, as well as systemic, specific immune suppression against antigens introduced at a critical time after exposure to UV radiation. Evidence is presented suggesting that the production of cytokines by epidermal cells in response to UV-induced DNA damage is an important component of UV-induced specific immune suppression.