To assess the importance of hair and eye colour, skin type and constitutive skin pigmentation as risk factors for basal cell carcinoma and cutaneous malignant melanoma in fair-skinned Caucasians, we conducted two identical case-control studies in Denmark. We studied 145 cases with basal cell carcinoma and 174 matched controls, and 168 cases with cutaneous malignant melanoma and 176 matched controls. Controls were matched on age, gender and place of residence. Subjects indicated their hair colour before 7 years of age, and at 25 years of age and their skin phototype. Interviewers assessed the present hair colour and eye colour, and the constitutive skin pigmentation was measured objectively by skin reflectance of UV unexposed buttock skin. There were no differences between basal cell carcinoma cases and controls in hair colour or eye colour or constitutive skin pigmentation, but more cases were of skin type II than skin type IV; skin type 11 was a risk factor for basal cell carcinoma with an odds ratio (OR) of 2.3. For cutaneous malignant melanoma, more cases than controls were red-haired or blond and of skin type II, but there was no difference in constitutive skin pigmentation. Hair colour and skin type were found to be independent risk factors for cutaneous malignant melanoma; red hair vs. black/brown: OR >9.7, blond hair vs. brown/black: OR = 2.4, and skin type 11 vs. type IV: OR=2.0. There were no gender-related differences in risk factors for basal cell carcinoma and cutaneous malignant melanoma.