We conducted a case-control study of sun exposure and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the skin within a population-based, longitudinal study of skin cancer. Cases had histopathologically confirmed SCC. Subjects were interviewed about their lifetime sun exposure, including exposure to the site of the SCC (sites for controls were assigned randomly). Analysis was restricted to 132 cases and 1,031 controls born in Australia and with no ancestors from southern Europe. The total site-specific exposure was strongly related to risk of SCC; the odds ratio increased to a maximum of 3.3 at 65,000 hr of exposure before falling slightly. Site-specific exposure during childhood and adolescence was more strongly associated with SCC than exposure during adulthood. An intermittent pattern of weekly sun exposure was not associated with SCC and the odds ratios for hours of exposure on vacation were close to unity. The number of blistering sunburns to the site was positively associated with SCC. Use of sunscreens and hats showed inconsistent effects. Sun exposure, especially during childhood and adolescence, increases the risk of SCC. The pattern of exposure appears to be unimportant, despite the association with sunburn, which may simply be an indicator of the skin's sensitivity to sunlight.